On February 24, 2022, Russia launched a full-scale invasion of neighboring Ukraine – the second-largest country in Europe. The offensive included missile, assault aviation, artillery, and multiple-rocket launcher strikes across Ukraine's entire territory; over 100.000 ground troops invasion along the thousands of miles long border, and cyberattacks on critical infrastructure objects. As a result, we are today witnessing the biggest armed conflict in Europe since World War II. While watching the news, I realized that I know inexcusably little about the Russian-Ukrainian conflict that turns out to have been unfolding for 8 (!) years and has already cost over 15.000 people in Ukraine their lives. I cannot but try to answer at least basic questions about this war and provide essential information that everyone needs to know.
So, what is going on?
In a nutshell, full-scale war between Russia and Ukraine. Although the Russian government calls it a "special" or "peacekeeping operation," officials across the globe consider it unprovoked aggression. Russia attacked Ukraine by land, air, and sea from East, South, and North, partially from the territory of allied Belorussia, which had let Russian troops through and allowed them to use its bases and airfields for missile and airstrikes on Ukrainian soil. While the initial strikes targeted Ukrainian military infrastructure, it didn't take long before the shelling and bombing of cities started, with Kharkiv – Ukraine's second-largest city – suffering the most after cluster munition and cruise missiles hit residential and administrative areas. As a result, during 5 days of combat, close to 500 civilians were killed, including at least 16 children. Amnesty International has condemned Russia's use of cluster munitions in Ukraine, saying such attacks "may constitute a war crime." At the moment, verified information about losses of both Ukrainian and Russian armies is unavailable. The Russian government classified this data, while the Ukrainian side reports about 6.000 Russian soldiers killed in action and hundreds captured.
What was the starting point of this war?
Actually, as I've figured out, the Russian-Ukrainian war has been going on for 8 years since Russia annexed the Ukrainian region of Crimea in March 2014. Then, Moscow sparked the armed conflict in the Donbas region in Eastern Ukraine and partially occupied it. It resulted in the creation of self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk republics, fully backed, financed, and armed by Russia. On February 22, 2022, Russia's President Vladimir Putin recognized these formations as independent states and backed their territorial claims to Ukraine. However, the assault in the early morning of February 24 took place not only in Donetsk and Luhansk regions but also along the entire Russian-Ukrainian, which is approximately 2500 miles long.
For about 6 months prior to the invasion, Russia has been accumulating 150.000 to 200.000 troops near the Ukrainian border, calling it "drills and maneuvers." The largest part of the world believed that this was just muscle-flexing and that the diplomatic efforts would be enough to prevent the escalation. Only a handful of European countries (i.e., Great Britain, Poland, Lithuania), in collaboration with the US, started supplying anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapon systems to Ukraine just about a month ago, trying to enhance the ability of the Ukrainian armed forces to resist.
Why did Russia invade Ukraine? What do they want?
Russian president Putin claimed the goal of the so-called "special operation" was to protect Russian citizens and Russian-speaking people who, as he believes, have been subjected to oppression in Ukraine. "Demilitarization and denazification" of Ukraine, as well as the change of their government, were named the overall aim of Russia's actions. Yet, the truth is, not a single international organization has ever confirmed that there are some signs of genocide, antisemitism, or even bullying in Ukraine. And Ukraine's legitimately elected president is of Jewish origins!
As I have understood from my research, the deeper reason for Russia's actions is that they still cannot accept the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, which happened over 30 years ago! The thing is, Ukraine was part of the USSR, and all recent polls show that Russian leaders and people still think that Ukraine has gained independence "unfairly," deny the right of Ukrainians to be called a distinct nation, and want this country to become part of Russia again. On the other hand, even a quick and shallow history research shows that Ukraine's capital city is almost twice older than Russia's capital Moscow and that Ukraine has been a sovereign state for centuries, fighting Russia for its right to exist along the way.
Why can't NATO or the UN interfere and stop the bloodshed?
NATO is not interfering in the war because it would basically mean direct confrontation with Russia – the country with the second-largest nuclear arsenal in the world. Putin has already put Russian nuclear forces on high alert, warning "exterior powers" from getting involved in the conflict; in response, NATO also has put their strategic nuclear forces on high alert. That's why even enforcing a no-fly zone over Ukraine is not considered by the NATO command as it would mean the necessity to down Russian warplanes.
The UN proved impotent to take any efficient action as Russia is a member of the organization's Security Council and vetoes any moves the diplomats make to stop the war.
What is the US reaction?
The US condemned Russia's actions from day one and started massive supplies of anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons to Ukraine, along with financial support. It also imposed a wide range of sanctions on Russia to undermine its economic power.
What is the world's reaction?
The European Union, Great Britain, Australia, Japan, and dozens of other countries worldwide (including Switzerland that remained neutral since 1815) imposed severe economic sanctions on Russia. Over two dozen countries closed their airspace for Russian airplanes. Every day, more and more countries join the international effort to help Ukraine and send weapons, military equipment, medical and other humanitarian supplies. Even microstate Luxembourg, which has an army of less than 500 professional soldiers, is sending anti-tank weapons and jeeps to Ukraine. Also, Russian state information resources are blocked across the world, Russian sports teams and individual athletes are excluded from international competitions.
On the other hand, Russia's actions gained support from Belorussia (joined the offensive on Ukraine), Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan (all – former Soviet republics with non-democratic regimes and close economic ties with Russia), Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela.
Where to get credible information about this war?
Virtually any American news channel. The vast majority of them have correspondents in Ukraine, as well as various experts commenting on the situation. Also, BBC is traditionally strong in covering conflicts anywhere in the world, including the Russian-Ukrainian war. If you prefer social media, try these hashtags on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and others: #stoprussia, #ukrainerussiawar, #warinukraine, #ukraineinvasion, #ukraineunderattack. Keep in mind, though, that this way doesn't guarantee that all the information there is credible; plus, there might be a lot of 18+ violent materials.
Why does it matter to me personally?
Well, the thing is, it could matter personally for each and every living person on planet Earth. As we've already mentioned, Russia has put its nuclear forces on high alert. As I understand, after what Putin and the Russian military did within the last few weeks, no one can be sure of his and Russia's rational thinking. Even American officials raise questions about his mental stability over the war with Ukraine.
Another aspect of the issue is the fact that Ukraine has 4 active nuclear power plants (including the biggest one in Europe), and the Chornobyl nuclear facility, decommissioned after the explosion in 1986. Now the latter is captured by the Russian military that uses the plant's radiation-polluted exclusion zone to mount troops for the offensive on Ukraine's capital Kyiv (it's roughly 100 miles). If any of these nuclear facilities are damaged as a result of combat, this could result in a global-scale disaster.
What can I do?
For all that I've learned about the Russian-Ukrainian war, I can say that it is Ukraine that needs global support. Thus, if you want to do something and think it could help to stop the war, you can spread the information about it via your social media and explain why it matters for everybody (see the previous point). You can also contact your government representative and urge them to take more proactive steps in resolving the conflict or imposing broader sanctions on the aggressor – Russia. Finally, you can donate to the Ukrainian charity fund "Come Back Alive" or the fundraising campaign "Save Ukraine" – these are two resources that I managed to verify so far.
I know this is not a text you usually read in our essay writing service blog, but once I found out about this tragedy, I just couldn't get by it. Let it be peace!