Over the past couple of months, updates concerning Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s tension have become global headlines. While Thursday’s footage (Feb. 24) of the Russian-led attacks by land, air, and sea disturbed world leaders, some broadcast viewers are unsure how this large-scale invasion came to be. Similar to historical conflicts outside Ukraine’s borders, today’s wounds have been festering for centuries.
As per Britannica’s “Ukraine under direct imperial Russian rule” section, “Following the abolition of autonomy in the Hetmanate and Sloboda Ukraine and the annexation of the Right Bank and Volhynia, Ukrainian lands in the Russian Empire formally lost all traces of their national distinctiveness.” In tandem, CBS dissected the 1700s events, during which much of Ukraine’s domain was pocketed for Russia’s realm by Catherine the Great. It is useful to note that Ukrainians opposed this nation for their independence at the top of the 20th century. Their military forces ultimately failed and joined the Soviet Union ahead of its dissolve.
Contemporary historian Anne Applebaum explained in the cited network, “[Ukraine] was a separate entity from the beginning … It always had its own language. It always had its own status inside the USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics).” Their status became null and void in 1991 following the collapse of the Soviet Union’s communist government. The Foreign Service Institute’s Office of the Historian website for the United States Department of State wrote, “After his inauguration in January 1989, George H.W. Bush did not automatically follow the policy of his predecessor, Ronald Reagan, in dealing with Mikhail Gorbachev… [The former President of USSR and his] decision to loosen the Soviet yoke on the countries of Eastern Europe created an independent, democratic momentum that led to the collapse of the Berlin Wall in November 1989, and then the overthrow of Communist rule throughout Eastern Europe.”
Ukraine’s administrations have since been vulnerable. By November of 2021, Al Jazeera recorded, “Satellite imagery shows a new build-up of Russian troops on the border with Ukraine, and Kyiv says Moscow has [mobilized] 100,000 soldiers along with tanks and other military hardware.” Soon after, President Putin made it clear publicly that he believed Ukraine had no right to independent statehood. The New Yorker published, “[His] statements bristle with frustration [against] American and European leaders for what he perceives as bringing Ukraine into the Western orbit after the end of the Cold War.” The aftermath of this disdain is the bombing of innumerable civilians and troops.
Last Thursday (Feb. 24), President Putin advised he was launching an assault “to defend people who for eight years are suffering persecution and genocide by the Kyiv regime.” Vox has since debunked this theory tracking it as “a false claim about the government in Ukraine … He demanded Ukraine lay down its weapons or be ‘responsible for bloodshed.'” Since then, our administration has imposed a direct sanction on President Putin. President Biden declared, “The Russian military has begun a brutal assault on the people of Ukraine without provocation, without justification, without necessity. He moved more than 175,000 troops, military equipment into positions… He moved blood supplies into position and built a field hospital, which tells you all you need to know about his intentions all along.”
The rejection of American leaders’ good-faith efforts has not been taken lightly. Former President Obama joined the call-to-action following Biden’s appeal, issuing a statement which reads, “Russia did so not because Ukraine posed a threat to Russia, but because the people of Ukraine chose a path of sovereignty, self-determination, and democracy. For exercising rights that should be available to all people and nations, Ukrainians now face a brutal onslaught that is killing innocents and displacing untold numbers of men, women and children.” What is currently transpiring echoes what occurred in the 1930s under Joseph Stalin, the Former Premier of the Soviet Union who seized Ukrainian farmland and wheat, inflicting a famine that caused roughly 4 million deaths.
Russia immediately gaining control of the Chernobyl nuclear site roused concern among world leaders. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) joined the fight directly, detailing, “NATO Allies are putting forces on standby and sending additional ships and fighter jets to NATO deployments in eastern Europe, reinforcing Allied deterrence and [defense] as Russia continues its military build-up in and around Ukraine.” Those aligned to resist with the Ukrainian populace include Denmark, Canada, Spain, Germany, France, Netherlands, America, and the United Kingdom.
Upon our government extending the option to evacuate Ukraine’s capital city Kyiv, President Zelenskyy responded, “The fight is here. I need ammunition, not a ride,” as logged by Market Watch from a conversation with a senior American intelligence official. On Saturday (Feb. 26), Russian militants encircled Kyiv and initiated a series of airstrikes on larger municipalities and military bases. President Zelenskyy has since released video footage assuring his people that he is in the country and has no plans of fleeing Ukraine. For some, his willingness to battle was unexpected as it has been confirmed that President Zelenskyy is the Ukrainian voice of Paddington Bear — a fictional orphaned children’s illustration from London via Peru. His likeness to the character is associated with peace.
However, his proximity to youth inspires the social media sentiment that President Zelenskyy’s connection to the children under attack is elevated. The Guardian has calculated that more than “368,000 people have already fled their homes in Ukraine, according to the UN refugee agency, and more than 4.5 million more could follow if the fighting spreads.” Last year, Ukraine’s population was estimated to exceed 43 million. Adjacent to that figure, 17% were Russian and 77% were Ukrainian, with “Ukrainian and Russian speakers [making up] 67.5% and 29.6% of the population” respectively, Indian Express verified. Russia’s governmental officials are aware that they are also bombing their people in Ukraine.
Youth-driven demonstrations have since taken place in front of the Russian Embassy in Copenhagen, Denmark, among other locations like New York City, Vancouver, London and Moscow. Sky News has also broadcast separate footage from the bombings of Ukraine’s largest cities as well as headlines like “Russia’s currency plunges following sanctions announcements.” Also, there are concerns that Belarusian paratroopers will be deployed to fight against Ukraine. President Zelenskyy has since implemented Martial law, and everyday people are bearing arms to protect themselves to the best of their abilities amid fears of nuclear escalation. Ukrainian household names, such as Hall of Fame boxers Vitali Klitschko and Wladimir Klitschko, have entered warfare alongside civilians to help protect their homeland. The Klitschko brothers have encouraged other celebrities to donate weapons and resources to Ukraine.
The ongoing circumstances are thought by many to be premeditated. For example, last year, Russia presented our country with an index of orders. “Putin demanded that NATO stop its eastward expansion and deny membership to Ukraine,” according to Vox. European regions are responding in disapproval. Harper’s BAZAAR confirmed that Queen Elizabeth II postponed a diplomatic event in reply, while Prince Harry and Meghan Markle recorded they “… stand with the people of Ukraine against this breach of international and humanitarian law and encourage the global community and its leaders to do the same.”
President Putin has seen Ukrainians defend themselves numerous times in his experience as a foreign intelligence officer and politician. In 1991, he witnessed over 400,000 people joining hands, forming a human chain stretching 400 miles between Ivano-Frankivsk through Kyiv. Later, the public figure experienced “Ukraine’s official Independence Day … [and citizens voting] to make their independence official when they approve the declaration by a landslide 92% of votes in favor,” NPR’s composition establishes. By 2004, Viktor Yanukovych — a Ukrainian presidential candidate who President Putin supported — was held accountable for voter intimidation and did not win his second runoff election. The Chicago Tribune stated, “… throngs of people embarked on what appeared to be a burgeoning rebellion against an election tainted by what international observers called vote-rigging and government bias in favor of Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.”
In the face of numerous corruption claims, neither of these heads reacted well to not getting their way. By 2014, The New York Times briefed, “Protesters in Ukraine overthrow President Viktor Yanukovych, who was friendly to Russia’s interests … The interim government that followed this pro-Western revolution eventually [signed] a trade agreement with the European Union.” Western officials have guaranteed President Putin will pay “the maximum price for the invasion,” according to France 24.
Still, Ukraine is not absolved from criminality. “Despite the geographical distance, there are important ties between Ukraine and Africa, including more than 8,000 Moroccans and 4,000 Nigerians studying in Ukraine and over $4 billion in exports from Ukraine to Africa,” substantiated The Brookings Institution. A majority of these African students are trapped in Ukraine. Scholars have cited them being blocked from fleeing to neighboring territories like Poland due to Ukrainians’ racial prioritization. Sources communicating with Business Insider said, “Black people are… being prevented from boarding trains and buses taking people to the borders, and some are not being permitted to cross into other countries.” A bulk of these African students study technical fields such as military affairs, medicine, or engineering.
During a string of life-threatening explosions, Reuters connected with a Ghanaian engineering student, Percy Ohene-Yeboah, who said to the outlet from the basement of a church, “In a situation like this, you’re on your own. You’ve got to find the best way to find refuge for yourself.” At 5 a.m. EST today (Feb. 28), The New York Times uploaded a memo that President Zelenskyy “agreed to discuss an end to the conflict, but said he feared … talks would not result in peace … Steps by the United States and its allies to target some Russian banks for the country’s invasion of Ukraine jarred Russia’s financial system.” A new Harvard Center for American Political Studies (CAPS)/Harris Poll survey shared a polarizing observation. The Hill quotes, “62 percent of those polled believed Putin would not be moving against Ukraine if Trump had been president … 85 percent of Republicans … answered this way.” Russia has not shown interest in de-escalating.