The conflict in Ukraine and its relevant origin.


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map of Ukraine. The conflict in Ukraine. The war in Ukraine.

By Luigi Pugliese, Assistant Reporter

As nearly everyone knows, Russia has been at war with Ukraine for over a month now, and while news coverage has largely died down due clearly more important matters, such as a rich person slapping another rich person at the Oscars, the war has all but calmed down, and numerous major events have occurred within Ukraine over the past month that most media has been silent about. On February 24, 2022, Putin announced that he had decided to launch a “special military operation” in eastern Ukraine, to “protect the people” in the predominately Russian-speaking region of Donbas, who, according to him, “for eight years now, had been facing humiliation and genocide perpetrated by the Kyiv regime”. He went on to say that Russia sought the “demilitarization and denazification” of Ukraine as a whole, likely referring to the “Azov Battalion” and the” Right Sector”, two fringe neo-Nazi groups in Ukraine that Putin greatly exaggerated the power of. Within minutes of Putin’s announcement, explosions were reported in Kyiv, Kharkov, Odessa, and Donbas, and Ukrainian president Zelenskyy announced the introduction of martial law in Ukraine. The war had officially started from that point on, but how did Russia reach the conclusion that war was necessary out of seemingly nowhere? The first part of the answer points back to 2009, when current Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych announced his intent to run for re-election in 2010.

Yanukovych was already a controversial president to begin with, rejecting propositions to join NATO and suspected of widespread electoral fraud, his subsequent victory in 2010 did not sit right with many people. In November of 2013, after he refused to sign the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement in favor of closer ties with Russia, the Euromaidan protests began with a wave of pro-EU protests in response to his decision. The demands of protests grew louder, with demands to end government corruption, police brutality, and repressive anti-protest laws, all leading up to a clash in February of 2014 against Berkut special forces and protesters, resulting in 100 protesters and 13 police officers dead. Yanukovych fled Ukraine and was subsequently voted out of office, resulting in pro-Russian unrest. Russian-controlled media painted the crisis as having been instigated by the post-Yanukovych government, representing the Euromaidan as “ultra-nationalists”, “fascists”, and “neo-Nazi”. Following this pro-Russian unrest, Russia annexed Crimea in March 2014, which was followed by the war in Donbas in April 2014, which Russian troops were heavily involved in. The Crimea annexation led to a wave of Russian nationalism and a drive to take more land from Ukraine. In July 2021, Putin published an essay titled “On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians”, reaffirming his view that Russians and Ukrainians were “one people”. Historians have described this essay and Putin’s ideas as nothing more than imperialism and historical revisionism, as well as having a generally distorted view of Ukraine and its history. Though, this essay was a clear sign that Putin had a clear interest in the acquisition of Ukrainian territory, and that was supported by the alarming event taking place on the Russo-Ukrainian border.

Beginning in March of 2021 and ending in April of the same year, Russia commenced a major military buildup on the Russo-Ukrainian border, followed by a second build-up from October of 2021 to February 2022. During these alarming developments, Russia fervently denied plans to attack or invade Ukraine, despite US intelligence discovering their clear invasion plans in early December 2021. In the months preceding the invasion, Russian officials made claims that Ukraine was inflicting tensions and allowing “Russophobia” or, anti-Russian sentiment, to flourish within the country, as well as making several security demands towards Ukraine and NATO. Putin also claimed that “Russophobia is a first step towards genocide” which was largely dismissed. In a speech delivered on February 21st, Putin questioned the legitimacy of Ukraine, and incorrectly claimed that they “never had a tradition of genuine statehood” and proceeding to also incorrectly state that the country had been created by Soviet Russia. He went on to say that Ukraine was dominated by Neo-Nazism and echoed the anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that casts Russian Christians as the “true” victims of Nazi Germany, instead of Jews. While Ukraine does have an issue with far-right groups, such as the Azov Battalion and the Right Sector, Putin greatly exaggerated the issue and exploited the history of World War 2 and the Holocaust to further his propogandist motives. It was these claims that he made during this speech that he used to declare war on Ukraine three days later. While it is widely known that Russian soldiers are now killing Ukrainian civilians and bombing cities, some lacking the knowledge that it is even Ukraine they are fighting an offensive war against, there are some tragedies performed by the Russian military that haven’t seen widespread news coverage.

One of these tragedies is the Bucha massacre, which was the mass killing of innocent civilians during the fight for the occupation of the Ukrainian city of Bucha, leaving over 400 innocent people dead, according to the mayor of Bucha, Anatoly Fedoruk. Photographic and video evidence of the massacre released on April 1st, 2022, and it is currently being reviewed and investigated to see if it constitutes as a major war crime. Russian authorities originally denied any wrongdoing, calling the videos a provocation and staged by Ukrainian authorities to sully the Russian image, these denials being refuted by multiple news outlets and eye-witness reports. It was reported by civilians in Bucha that the Russian military was “systematically killing people” for no reason and for no possible military justification, simply just torturing civilians. They asserted that these mass killings were entirely deliberate, and, in many cases, people were being gunned down for no clear reason. Even though this massacre has been discovered, news outlets haven’t picked up on it as much as they have other stories, and it seems like the war in Europe has fallen off in Western interest, especially on social media platforms such as Twitter.

Throughout all this conflict, indirect military support has been given to Ukraine through weapons, supplies, and other necessities. The fact that Ukraine has been fighting for so long signals that they have a chance at fending off the Russians, as they have done before. Through all of this, though, many large-scale companies and corporations such as Disney and PayPal, have begun refusing service to those living in Russia. Notably, Disney has halted new releases from showing in Russia, and has pulled the Russian movie “Anastasia” from Disney+, which has nothing to do with the war at all and is nothing more than a clear attempt to garner sympathy. The quick eagerness in which American media has so quickly washed itself of everything to do with Russia and its culture is worrying, and companies such as PayPal have restricted accounts belonging to those living in Russia, worsening their suffering by potentially cutting off their income. While it is important to speak out against Russia and its horrible actions, it’s crucial to recognize that most of the Russian people do not support this war at all, and they can only suffer under Putin and his decision to invade.