What is Happening in Ukraine?
By Leah Martinez '22
Source: Razom for Ukraine
Editor’s Note: This is a rapidly developing and ongoing conflict. We encourage you to visit the links provided below the article and read further to get the most up-to-date information.
The current conflict between Ukraine and Russia has lasted for eight years but on February 24, 2022, it escalated into a war when the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, ordered a full-on invasion of Ukraine. Over 2.8 million people have fled the country, as Russian missiles and gunfire have destroyed populous areas such as Kyiv, Ukraine's capital city. Various countries, government leaders, and citizens around the globe have rallied together online and in-person in support of Ukraine.
Ukraine and Russia’s conflict is historically complex. One of the causes can be traced back to 1991 when the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) fell and Ukraine declared its independence. The USSR was once made up of 15 republics, including Ukraine and Russia. After the collapse, the weapons accumulated by the Soviet Union were distributed amongst the new states, but in 1994 Ukraine gave their weapons to Russia and several other countries in exchange for border security. This arguably created a power imbalance between the two countries. Since 2008 Russia has been actively preventing Ukraine from joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). To briefly explain, with the addition of Ukraine into NATO, Russia would lose prime geographic advantages and its influence over the country. Vladimir Putin detests the organization, as he views NATO as a threat to Russia’s national security.
In 2014, Ukraine dealt with internal conflict as Ukrainian citizens protested against the prior pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych's decision not to join a deal that would have been economically beneficial for the country. Putin invaded the Crimean Peninsula to gain access to the Black Sea, but Russia’s celebration had a quick end as Putin encountered international criticism and sanctions. A few years after the invasion of Crimea, Ukraine faced cyberattacks, power outages, and hacking, and Russia is believed to be behind these attacks.
On February 24, 2022, the conflict that had been building between Ukraine and Russia became a war. Putin declared a land, sea, and air invasion on Ukraine. More and more Russian troops have been encroaching on the border and Russian planes have been dropping bombs all throughout the country. As of this publication, these have hit the capital city and Vinnytsia airport. Ukrainians have truly experienced a devastating loss. Over 2.8 million people have been displaced, along with an estimated 15k deaths, and 1.9k non-fatal injuries. Ukraine’s borders with neighboring European countries such as Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Hungary, and Moldova have been flooded by refugees. Due to the bombings, the roads can not be used and people have been making the journey to safety on foot or by train.
At the borders, Africans fleeing Ukraine have experienced blatant racism and have been denied boarding trains or taking shelter because of their skin color. Ukrainian border authorities have also forced African students and workers to the back of the lines, deprived them of food, and used physical force. Africans were told that children and women must go first but white Ukrainian men were being allowed entry ahead of them.
People around the world have taken to social media platforms in support of the Ukrainian people using #StandWithUkraine. Anti-war protests have been held by Russians who are against Putin’s aggression towards Ukraine, and over 1,500 protesters have been arrested. Pro-Ukraine demonstrations have also taken place across the United States and even here in the Bay Area.
Leaders around the world have come together to stand against Putin and aid Ukraine. They have provided Ukrainians with shelter, food, money, medical care, clothing, and visas. On March 1, 2022, at the State of the Union Address, President Biden spoke about what he plans to do to help Ukraine. The United States and other NATO countries have agreed to place sanctions on Russia in an attempt to deter the invasion. The purpose of the sanctions is to significantly damage the Russian economy by cutting international business relations. President Biden was clear that the United States will not engage in the war but he plans to give $1 billion to assist Ukraine and send American troops to protect NATO countries.