Conflict in Ukraine: A Briefing

In the weeks since Russia’s initial large-scale invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, the conflict has only continued to mount. One of the chief causes for the attack is Ukraine’s desire to join The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), an intergovernmental alliance between twenty-eight European countries and two North American countries (including the US) that has been seen as a consistent threat to Russia. Nations around the world attempt to walk a fine line between avoiding direct conflict with Russia while also helping the 42 million people who call Ukraine home. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky asked NATO for aid this past Saturday in establishing a “no-fly zone” over his country. Russian President Vladimir Putin declared that any actions involving violence to aircraft would be taken as a declaration of war on Russia. Laws in Russia have been unclear with reference to the limits of presidential powers, particularly given Putin’s changes to the Russian constitution.

Ukrainian capital Kyiv has yet to be taken by Russian troops, despite its proximity to Moscow, the capital of Russia; however,  the former opulence of the city, once considered by many one of the most beautiful in Eastern Europe, has been reduced to rubble. Shells erupt at any moment, and holes have blown through supermarkets, preschools, and playgrounds. Many subway stations have been converted into bomb shelters, holding families huddling closely with their cats and dogs. 

Over 1.5 million citizens of Ukraine have attempted to escape the explosive violence of their country. Bordering nations Slovakia, Romania, Poland, Hungary, and Moldova are welcoming the heavy influx of refugees, most of them women, children, and the elderly. Ukrainian men between the ages of 18-60 have been conscripted to fight and, therefore, cannot legally leave the country without a rare exception, such as having a health issue or being a single father. 

The bravery and resilience of Ukrainian civilians is being acknowledged worldwide. “After watching a segment on CNN’s 10 for 10 about the Ukrainian refugees, it made me think about this enduring issue in every modern conflict,” said social studies teacher Laura McCarthy. “But, it’s kind of heartwarming to see that people are coming to their assistance.”

Information about the ongoing crisis is dominating the news cycle. “It’s important to know about this situation and not push the situation aside, because many people are getting hurt and dying,” said freshman Bobbie Applebaum. “This is a sad situation, and I personally feel like this is important for people to learn about.”

Protests to this conflict have erupted in nations all over the world, including Japan, Austria, the United States, Italy, Malaysia, Russia and France; all are against the acts of Putin and Russia’s invasion into Ukraine. Though language and location may separate the protesters, they all strive for the same goal and put forward the same plea: no war. There have been over 2,000 citizens detained in Russia, and the country’s government has made a stringent effort to shut down all social media posts and press that go against the government’s intentions. Journalists hurriedly hand out their papers in the streets of Russian cities, but Russia is threatening 25 years in prison for “fake” news. The bravery of Ukrainian journalists, who have remained in their country, even with the growing chances of death and detainment by Russian troops, has been equated to those of Ukrainian soldiers by many Ukrainian citizens.

As the ninth largest country by population, Russia has always had significant influence on worldwide political affairs, particularly in Eastern Europe. “There are obviously a lot of influences that Russia has in the region, and in any political issue, there are multiple political parties and people with political opinions,” said science teacher Stoycho Velkovsky, who is of Bulgarian descent.

An increasing number of economic sanctions have been placed against Russia. Most damaging to their economy is the removal of Russian banks from SWIFT, the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication. In addition to this, President Joe Biden announced a ban on Russian oil on Mar. 8, which accounts for 3% of America’s oil imports. This is expected to increase the price of gasoline in the US, which Biden responded to by saying “defending freedom is going to cost.”

Thus, the conflict in Ukraine continues, with the safety of Ukrainians, the looming threat of global conflict, and the tarnishing of decades of relative international peace hanging in the balance.