By Saumya Sawant
On the night of February 23, 2022, at approximately 10 p.m., Russian armed forces invaded Ukraine, detonating explosives in major cities such as Kyiv, Kharkiv, and Kherson. This invasion marks a new chapter in a book that has already seen an eight year long war between Ukraine and pro-Russian forces. Prior to this invasion, Russia had invaded Ukraine multiple times before. This includes the forceful taking of the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in 2014.
The U.S. has sworn to stand by Ukraine’s side and has imposed sanctions against Russia, including “a ‘squeeze’ on Russian access to financial markets, a limit on certain exports and other penalties.” Other countries have begun mobilizing troops to protect the “eastern part of the alliance on NATO territory.”
Meanwhile, Ukraine has begun enlisting men aged 18-60 to defend its borders.
Ukraine, which had been part of the Soviet Union during the 20th century, declared independence two years after the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Following this, Ukraine began to introduce a new, democratic government.
In 2013, under a pro-Russian president, Ukraine struck a deal with Vladimir Putin, an ex-KGB officer and current President of Russia, to choose an “economic deal with Russia over one with Europe.” This was done strategically to ensure that Ukraine would remain under Russian, not Western, control. Protests soon began as many Ukranians wanted the country to align itself with the West. These protests were successful, and in February of 2014, the pro-Russian president was overthrown and a new president (one who was more aligned with the West) was put in place instead.
Putin, angry over this move, took action immediately by annexing the Crimean Peninsula, which belonged to Ukraine. He claimed that this was done to defend “ethnic Russians who live in Ukraine’s Eastern Donbas region, which has never supported the country’s relatively new, pro-Western government.” The international community as a whole has never recognized the Peninsula to be part of Russia.
Putin’s main motivation seems to be restoring Russia to its former power and influence during the Soviet Union Era. In multiple speeches, he references Ukraine to be “inseparable…one people, a single whole,” adding that “modern Ukraine was completely created by Russia.” Additionally, Putin also seems to be worried that Ukraine, in the process of becoming a successful democracy, will give Russian citizens the motivation they need to rise up against the Russian government and demand similar freedom. Analysts believe that Putin hopes to decrease confidence in Ukraine’s government, allowing him to step in and establish pro-Russian control.
It’s important to note that many Russians (living in both Ukraine and Russia) are against this war and strongly denounce Putin’s actions. Alina Enero, a Fashion Model on Instagram, posted a story on her account about messages she received from angry users. “I got many messages from people being aggressive towards me because I’m from Russia. People in Russia have nothing to do with what our president does…I have a lot of friends in Ukraine and my own roots are 100 percent Ukrainian…my last name is Ukrainian as well…I truly feel like they are MY people.”
And though many Russians are protesting on the streets, many others face trouble as they fear that any kind of protest or outcry against the Russian government and Putin’s actions will lead to violence and/or jail time. One Ukranian woman living in Moscow says, “It’s horrible. It’s very dangerous…to try and to openly discuss something. If you are heard or seen, or whatever, the lightest option is they give you some fine, some very big fine for some thousands of dollars…anything could happen…no one wants to be beaten in the streets.”
NATO Involvement & the US
Since Ukraine is not a NATO member, the US and other European allies have not sent troops to help the country defend itself. They have, however, sent supplies and diplomatic representatives as support. Casualties so far on the Ukrainian side are reported to be “at least 57 (people)” with “169 more wounded.”
In the past, Ukraine has expressed a strong interest to join NATO. 2014 marked the last of Ukraine’s pro-Russian presidents and ever since then, the Ukrainian people have voted for pro-Western leaders in office. Russia has tried to deny this by attempting to force the US and its allies into not accepting Ukraine. They have, however, refused to budge on this. Meanwhile, Ukraine’s NATO membership still remains in the air.
How Foreigners Can Help
The main thing that people can do to help is donate to charities that support the Ukrainian people and troops. An important thing to keep in mind is that certain payment sites such as PayPal and Venmo do not appear to work in Ukraine, and readers should bear this in mind when donating money.
The following is a list of charities/places to donate. For minors, please donate responsibly under the supervision of a trusted adult.
SaveLife - To help the armed forces of Ukraine
Ukrainian Red Cross - To help provide supplies in times of emergencies (including blood)
Territory of Kindness - To help the military and children in Ukraine
Children’s Voices - To provide mental support for children impacted by the war
Razom - To help the Ukrainian people continue to build a democratic society