On February 24, 2022, Vladimir Putin ordered a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. This unprovoked, brutal, and irrational move came after months of assurances from Russia’s authoritarian leader that the mobilization of troops along the Ukrainian border was a mere military exercise.
Officially, the Russian regime has packaged this war of aggression as a “special military operation” to demilitarize and “denazify” Ukraine, which it accuses of presenting a serious threat to Russia’s national security as well as persecuting its Russian-speaking minority. But Putin’s narrative, driven by unsubstantiated claims, is near-universally recognized for what it really is: a weak and absurd attempt at justifying the unjustifiable.
Faced with brutal aggression, the people of Ukraine have stood defiant. Indeed, Ukrainian resilience has thus far frustrated Putin’s ambitions of quickly overwhelming the country. However, as with every war, the human consequences are catastrophic.
The war in Ukraine stands out as the first full-scale invasion of one sovereign European country by another since the end of World War II. After over a week of fighting, Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has resulted in hundreds of civilian casualties. Sadly, as time goes on, the aggression only continues to escalate. Russian forces have been launching missiles at Ukrainian cities, hitting a number of residential areas – including supermarkets and kindergartens.
Human rights organizations have reported the use of cluster munitions and vacuum bombs – highly destructive weapons that are condemned by a majority of countries worldwide. In one such attack, cluster munitions were confirmed by Human Rights Watch to have hit a hospital.
In another terrifying turn of events, Russian forces caused a fire at a nuclear power plant in Zaporizhzhia after heavy shelling. Any incident at a nuclear power plant could have devastating consequences.
Despite the horrendous circumstances, with Kyiv under sustained attack by Russian forces, Volodymyr Zelensky, the President of Ukraine, has defiantly remained in the Ukrainian capital and is committed to lending his support to those on the front lines defending the city.
As a result of the terror inflicted upon Ukraine by the Russian regime, millions of Ukrainians are seeking safe passage to neighboring countries while millions more are internally displaced. We are now witnessing the most severe refugee crisis Europe has seen in decades.
When the Russian dictator made the decision to launch a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, he clearly underestimated the determination and resolve of the Ukrainian people.
Putin’s ideal scenario would likely have seen the Ukrainians capitulate within days. As such, he would then be able to annex more territory and either install a puppet government in Kyiv or at least impose conditions of surrender that would ensure his foreign policy demands were met.
However, regardless of what exact ambitions motivated Putin’s latest aggression, it is now clear that his initial plans have backfired miserably. The Ukrainian people have shown immense determination and resilience in defending their country against invasion by an authoritarian regime hostile to Ukraine’s existence as a nation.
While one side has soldiers following orders, the other consists of people fighting for their homes, their freedom, and their survival.
Consequently, the invading Russian forces have proven unable to rapidly overwhelm the Ukrainians as Putin had hoped. Instead, the prolonged brutality of Putin’s unjustifiable invasion is making Russia a pariah among the international community.
The reaction to Putin’s aggression abroad has been scathing, and much more so than Putin would have anticipated. When the United Nations passed a resolution condemning the invasion and demanding the withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine, only Belarus, Eritrea, North Korea, and Syria sided with Russia in voicing dissent.
Even China, a fellow authoritarian state more friendly to Putin’s regime than most, abstained from voting.
Responsibility for the war in Ukraine lies firmly with Vladimir Putin and his regime, as opposed to the Russian people as a whole. Many ordinary Russians abhor the atrocities committed in their name by a military force acting on the orders of a tyrant. Indeed, many of those on the front line are young conscripts who have been lied to about the nature of their “operation” in Ukraine.
Putin’s war offers no benefit to the people of Russia. It only offers unnecessary bloodshed and hardship. Just as the Russian dictator is responsible for the atrocities committed against the Ukrainian people, responsibility for the current plight of the Russian people lies firmly with him. Putin’s despotic regime sacrifices the interests of ordinary Russians at the altar of his imperialist ambitions.
Putin has likely also been taken aback by the scale and scope of the sanctions imposed against Russia as a result of the Putin regime’s brutal and unjustifiable attack against the Ukrainians. The United States and the European Union have decided to target and freeze assets associated with the Russian dictator and his Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov.
Restrictions have been placed on Russia’s largest banks as well as on a number of individuals with close ties to the Russian regime. Furthermore, Russia has been cut off from SWIFT, the network connecting global financial institutions.
The move to deny Russia access to SWIFT carries serious economic consequences, having already led to a collapse in the value of the ruble. Moreover, sanctions are being compounded by a number of private companies and organizations announcing boycotts, and a number of countries closing their airspace to Russian airlines.
The global response to the horrific scenes in Ukraine has been one of outrage against Putin’s aggressive, authoritarian, and imperialistic regime. Around the world, the sentiment of solidarity with the Ukrainian people is almost unanimous.
In almost every major city in Europe, rallies have been held in support of Ukrainian sovereignty. Protests have taken place outside numerous Russian embassies to demand an end to the senseless atrocities in Ukraine.
Even in Russia, where open dissent against the regime has serious repercussions, many people have been brave enough to take a stand. Sadly, those in Russia protesting against the war have faced persecution from the authorities.
It is estimated that at least 6,400 anti-war protesters have been detained across the country since the beginning of the invasion. Recently, even a group of children were arrested and detained for carrying anti-war messages in Moscow.
In light of the Ukrainian struggle, many concerned individuals around the world have donated money and supplies. Those located nearby in particular have been numerous in offering practical assistance, including accommodation and transport from the border for those seeking to escape to safety.
Furthermore, the governments of a number of European countries have made commendable efforts to assist Ukrainian refugees by waiving visa requirements.
Foreign leaders are increasingly recognizing the urgent need to bring an end to Putin’s aggression and atrocities in Ukraine. His unprovoked and wholly unjustifiable invasion is fuelled by disdain for Ukraine’s aspirations. While Ukraine has experienced its struggles, its citizens enjoy far greater respect for their civil liberties than their counterparts living under Putin’s regime.
Russia’s attack against Ukrainian sovereignty represents an attack against the values that underpin a free society – values towards which Putin has made his hostility extremely clear.
As the people of Ukraine continue their valiant struggle to repel the invasion and Russia feels the pressure of the international community, one must hope that Putin’s antagonistic and aggressive regime will crumble, leaving the people of both Ukraine and Russia free to build a better future for themselves in peace.
To read some of our alumni’s statements on Putin’s aggression against the people of Ukraine, be sure to click on the button below.
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