by Sania Ambardekar
It has been a month since Vladimir Putin, the President of Russia declared war on Ukraine. His goal is to “demilitarize and De-Nazify” Ukraine. Ukraine and Russia are bordering countries in Eastern Europe with similar histories. 1300 years ago, Kyivan Rus spanned what is now known as Russia and Ukraine and the Slavs are the ancestors of today’s Russians and Ukrainians. In the 1500s, descendents of Kyivan Rus formed imperial Russia. This is when Ukrainians said that even though they share the same religion and history with Russia, Ukrainian culture, food, language, art and music are completely different. It was shaped by different people and circumstances. This was the first attempt of Ukraine to become a separate entity.
In 1917, another revolution took place. The Soviet Union was formed and the Ukrainians were defeated and were not able to form their own country once again. The Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic was formed which was one of the many republics that made up the union. Fast forward to 1991, the Soviet Union collapsed and Russia and Ukraine were finally independent nations. Although, the tension between the two countries was carried forward to the 21st century. In 2013, Ukraine overthrew Russian President Viktor Yanukovych because he refused to sign a trade agreement that would bring Ukraine closer to Europe. Since then, Vladimir Putin has had serious concerns about Ukraine joining forces with the US. In 2014, Russia took over Crimea in Ukraine and 14000 people have been killed since then and a million have fled to escape the fighting.
In February 2022, Vladimir Putin claimed that Russia must take charge and assert more dominance over Ukraine. Russian people had no say in this and are in fact protesting to stop the worst war Europe has seen in several decades. Russians have family ties in Ukraine as well and yearn for nothing but peace. A Russian tennis player, Andrey Rublev walked towards a camera during the Dubai Tennis Championship and wrote “No War Please” on the lens as a way to voice out his disdain towards the helplessness of the situation. This invasion has marked a major escalation of the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict. Vladimir Putin has falsely accused Ukraine of prosecuting Russian-speaking minorities as a way of justifying his actions. In essence, Putin wants the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to halt its eastward expansion and treaty with the US as well as halt handing out memberships to Ukrainians. Instead, he wants NATO’s focus to be shifted on Central and Eastern Europe.
The US and other countries accused Russia of planning an attack which they repeatedly denied until 23rd February 2022. This has led to unimaginable economical damage to the country and its people. Where businesses, homes, hospitals, schools and other infrastructure once stood, there are now massive piles of unrecognizable rubble and crumbling shells of concrete. The attack began on the fateful morning of 24th February where Ukrainian families were awoken by missiles and helicopters in Kyiv, Kharkiv and Kherson.
As this unprovoked act crosses its one month mark, millions of Ukrainians, especially women and children have been displaced. Families have been broken as they all flee their homes to neighboring NATO member countries. Ukraine confirms that the number of deaths are significantly higher than what the United Nations has declared. Furthermore, trains and borders have been packed with long queues of people trying to escape the war torn country that they once called home. Refugees have been prevented from leaving Ukraine based on their ethnicity. It was reported that at a border, an African American was told “if you’re black, you should walk.” Although there are countries in Europe that are offering them education, health care and work if they are able to escape the war. Among these were about 20000 Indian students. Fortunately, the Indian government was able to rescue almost all stranded Indians in the initial days of the war.
Social media has had a tremendous impact on spreading awareness about the war. From political representatives sharing Twitter updates to people on the ground in Ukraine sharing real time reports of the events, social media has a front seat to the war. The most surprising circumstance was Ukraine’s official Twitter account posting dark, humorous memes about the war. A thread on Instagram addressing the entire meme situation went viral in the light of these events. It talked about misinformation and how the memes were insensitive towards the people for whom the war is a reality. For Ukrainians, memes aren’t coping mechanisms, they are disturbing and hurtful forms of humor in these trying times. However, to look on the brighter side of things, social media has helped raise funds and donate to Ukraine based charities to contribute however they can. Help has been extended beyond monetary fundraisers too. Mothers have been spotted taking strangers’ children to the border to bring them to safety. In such a grim situation, the world has come together to support and provide as much aid as possible. In addition, peace talks are in progress and Russia has agreed to reduce military presence near Kyiv. Even though it is impossible for the country to be restored to its former glory and families to be reunited anytime soon, Ukrainians as well as people all over the world hope for peace and harmony to ascend upon the tragic event that is the Russia-Ukraine war.