War in Europe: Russia Attacks Ukraine, Death and Dislocation

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Photo courtesy of Fotoreserg/ www.depositphotos.com
Russian President Vladimir Putin. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia.

On Feb. 24, the president of Russia, Vladimir Putin, ordered the army to invade Ukraine.  Russia and Ukraine share a border, and in the past, were part of the same nation – the Soviet Union, or USSR, until it dissolved in 1991 and its members became independent countries. Putin insists that Ukraine is fundamentally part of Russia rather than an independent country.  The overwhelming majority of Ukrainians disagree.

Events in 2014 marked a breaking point for Ukraine and Russia. Ukrainian citizens had voted in favor of trying to join the European Union (EU) and that process began. Russia pressured the then-president, Viktor Yanukovych, and he stopped the process. Ukrainian citizens took to the streets in protest and drove him out of office, and he fled to Russia for safety. The Russian army then invaded Crimea, an important peninsula in southern Ukraine, and claimed it for Russia. Fast forward to 2022 and things have escalated, as Putin is hungry to reestablish the boundaries of the USSR, or even the historical Russian Empire from the distant past.


Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Western military alliance, NATO, has expanded eastward. NATO is a European military alliance that values democratic views and market economics, and many Eastern European countries have joined NATO since 1991. In 2008, NATO stated that Ukraine might be able to join the alliance in the future. Russia sees NATO as a military and political threat and Ukraine joining NATO is unacceptable to Putin.


Not only are Ukrainians suffering, but Russians, too. Putin has strangled the press so that there no longer are any independent news organizations operating inside Russia. Most international news agencies have also pulled their reporters out of Moscow. Almost all the members of the United Nations have condemned Russia’s attacks, and many nations have joined together to impose economic sanctions on Russia. International companies are cutting business ties with Russian companies, and banks are no longer transferring funds.


Although Russia has many more tanks, soldiers and arms than Ukraine does, its military has failed to capture major Ukrainian cities such as the capital, Kyiv, due to fierce resistance by Ukrainian military and citizen-fighters. However, it has bombed into rubble many important historical cities, attacked schools and hospitals, and driven families to live in underground shelters or flee the country. Some 10 million people have been displaced. Among them, 4 million refugees, mostly women and children, have fled Ukraine, mainly to Poland, Moldova and other neighboring countries. The civilian casualties and deaths number in the thousands.