Russia Invades Ukraine: Breaking it Down


Evgeniy Maloletka/AP/Shutterstoc

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Evgeniy Maloletka/AP/Shutterstock (12820719f) Ukrainian military track burns at an air defence base in the aftermath of an apparent Russian strike in Mariupol, Ukraine, . Russian troops have launched their anticipated attack on Ukraine. Big explosions were heard before dawn in Kyiv, Kharkiv and Odesa as world leaders decried the start of Russian invasion that could cause massive casualties and topple Ukraine’s democratically elected government Tensions, Mariupol, Ukraine – 24 Feb 2022

By Eunho Jung, Senior Editor

On the early morning of Thursday, February 24, Russian President Vladimir Putin declared a “special military operation” in its neighboring country, Ukraine.

Shortly after, explosions were reported in multiple cities in the north, east, and west including Kharkiv and, the capital, Kyiv.  A map of Ukraine and surrounding countries, including areas already annexed by Russia.

After months of troops growing along the Russian-Ukrainian border and heightened tensions between the two sovereign nations, Putin initiated a full-scale war on Ukraine. The tensions between these two ex-Soviet countries date even further back, however. In 2014, Russia annexed the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine and backed Russian separatists in the eastern Donbas region.

Tensions rapidly heightened as on Monday, February 21, Putin denied Ukrainian statehood. “Ukraine actually never had stable traditions of real statehood,” said Putin. He went on further to argue that Ukraine was a creation of the Soviet Union (1922-1991). He also announced that Russia would recognize two separatist regions in Ukraine as Russian states.

Ukraine's President Zelensky: In the streets of a war-rattled city, a hero is born - The Washington Post
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky posted a video on Feb. 26 insisting he had not called on his country’s soldiers to surrender. (The Washington Post)


Why is Putin risking setting off a possible World War III and ensuing mass chaos? The answer is not that clear. According to Putin, he is reiterating false arguments that he is seeking to protect people subject to genocide by the main goal of the “demilitarisation and de-Nazification” of Ukraine. This argument stands no ground, as there is no genocide in Ukraine, which is led by the Jewish president Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

Addressing the Russian President and Russian public, Zelenskiy questioned the logic of Putin’s claims. “You are told we are Nazis. But could a people who lost more than 8 million lives in the battle against Nazism support Nazism?” he asked in his native language. He went on further to add, “How can I be a Nazi? Explain it to my grandfather, who went through the entire war in the infantry of the Soviet army, and died a colonel in an independent Ukraine.”

As of Saturday, February 26, 198 Ukrainians have been killed so far and more than 1,100 people, including children, have been wounded.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is a military alliance between 28 European countries and 2 North American countries including the United States. Simply put, when one NATO nation is attacked, all the other NATO nations will retaliate. Ukraine is not a member of NATO for several reasons. To meet the criteria for entry into NATO, a nation must demonstrate a commitment to democracy and freedom, a threshold Ukraine has not yet wholly met. Furthermore, if Ukraine were to join NATO, NATO nations would now be obligated to defend Ukraine from Russia, a move that would further destabilize eastern Europe. If Ukraine wanted to join the military alliance, all thirty nation members would have to unanimously agree; a feat that does not seem likely.

Aris Messinis/AFP via Getty Images

The United States and the European Union swiftly responded by imposing sanctions on Russia. President Joe Biden cut off Russia’s largest banks from the U.S. financial system and imposed sanctions on the Russian elites in Putin’s inner circle. The EU implemented sanctions on Putin and Russia’s prime minister Sergey Lavrov.

Sanctions are best defined as “commercial and financial penalties applied by one or more countries against a targeted self-governing state, group, or individual.”

Although this will likely not deter Putin from continuing his advances on Ukraine, it will economically devastate Russia.

As the fighting continues, the Ukrainian people will not let their enemy take their country without a fight. Civilians, teachers, housewives, and lawyers are making Molotov cocktails together on the streets of Ukraine prepared to defend their country. Ukrainian TV broadcasts are airing tutorials on how to create the makeshift bomb.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has stood strong and held his post as the Ukrainian president. Declining U.S. evacuation offers, he said “The fight is here; I need ammunition, not a ride.”

This Ukrainian resistance comes as a surprise for Putin, who assumed Ukraine would fall without a fight. John Kirby, Pentagon spokesman said at a briefing on February 25, “It’s not apparent to us that Russians have been able to execute their plans as they deemed that they would. But it’s a dynamic, fluid situation.”

People make their way to the border crossing with Poland in Mostyska, Ukraine, on Feb. 26, after Russia launched its invasion. (Thomas Peter/Reuters)

Unfortunately, the Ukrainian refugee crisis has already begun. Thousands of Ukrainian refugees are fleeing to neighboring European countries such as Poland, Hungary, Moldova, Slovakia, and Romania. An estimated 368,000 Ukrainians have left their country to seek refuge elsewhere. Males ages 18 to 60 are barred from leaving the country as President Zelenskiy declared martial law. The United Nations estimates that 100,000 Ukrainians have already been displaced and the number could grow to 1-5 million.

As students and participants in this digital world, media literacy during this time is now more important than ever. In an attempt to push certain narratives and fearmonger by several parties, there is inaccurate information, photos, videos, and news floating around the internet. Before you repost anything, share anything, or post anything, do your research and make sure what you are spreading is accurate and reliable.

Daryna Yushchenko, a senior at Wayne Hills High School, shared her thoughts on the ongoing war, “Putin’s actions are the furthest a person can go from humanity, to scale an invasion at 4 AM, ready to kill millions of people, families, children, elderly, for the idea of land and power and risk his own citizens for that is not inhumane at this point but not human.”

Daryna, a Ukrainian-American, knows the matter all too well. She shared, “As a Ukrainian, the excruciating jumble of pain and worry and sadness and anger and pride and hope and despair has been impossible to handle. I see the places that made up my childhood blown to pieces and invaded, all my family and friends in Ukraine I’ve known my whole life are in constant danger and I don’t know if they’re alive or dead until morning comes for them, which is evening/night in America. It’s terrifying. Even if I didn’t have close personal ties to Ukraine, just as a human being, watching everything over the past week unfold solidified a distrust in politics and human nature.”

When asked if the matter could’ve been avoided, she explained “To say if this could have been avoided is complicated because in a perfect good world Ukraine would have joined NATO a decade ago. Being part of NATO could have maybe prevented this, also if the US UK, and Russia kept their promise to respect Ukraine’s borders and sovereignty when Ukraine gave up their nuclear weapons in 1994 (when they held the third-largest nuclear weapon supply in the world) then maybe things would have worked out differently. A promise vs a treaty politically, however, is a significant difference.”

People protest against Russia’s attack on Ukraine in front of Shinjuku station on Saturday in Tokyo, Japan. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida condemned Russia’s attack on Ukraine and stated that it undermines the foundation of the international order. Yuichi Yamazaki/Getty Images

There are millions of Ukrainians around the world just like Daryna that are watching Ukraine fall under siege on their television screens. Rallies have been held worldwide to stand with Ukraine and its sovereignty. Countries like Germany, Australia, Russia, Britain, Estonia, Japan, Iran, and Georgia have come together to stand in solidarity with Ukraine.

The consequences are dire if Russia were to succeed in its efforts to destabilize and overthrow the Ukrainian government and statehood.

Although we cannot stop Putin’s actions, we can help the Ukrainian refugees fleeing for their lives.

Charities like GlobalGiving, Hope for Ukraine, Project Hope, Save the Children, and World Help are on the ground helping displaced Ukrainian citizens.

In 2022, we are reminded just how fragile peace and democracy are, something we should never take for granted in this seemingly modern world.