By Elizabeth Kershteyn
On February 24, 2022 at approximately 6 a.m., the people of Ukraine woke up to the sounds and blasts of bombs falling from the sky. At the same time, Vladimir Putin officially declared a “special military operation.” This happened just days after Putin recognized two separatist regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, commonly known as the Donbas region, as independent from Ukraine. Ukraine has since been devastated with airstrikes and a full-scale invasion from three different fronts: North (Belarus), East (Donbas), and South (Crimea). This invasion is happening after months of denials by the Russian government, who claimed that they would not proceed with an attack. The entire world is now witnessing the result of the Kremlin’s lies: Kherson has been occupied, while Kyiv and Kharkiv, the two largest Ukrainian cities, are stalling the Russian invasion. As the airstrikes continue, people in Ukraine are seeking shelter in subway stations, basements, and makeshift bomb shelters. The President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, declared martial law across Ukraine and general mobilization.
A terrible war has unfolded in Europe the likes of which has not been seen since World War II. Major peaceful protests are happening around the world in support of Ukraine, but most importantly they are happening in Russia. This began after Zelensky made a powerful speech asking Russian citizens to come out and protest the war. Thousands of people in Russia gathered across the country despite the Kremlin‘s propaganda claiming that the Ukrainian government is run by neo-Nazis and that Russian troops are there to save the people of Ukraine and restore their independence. According to OVD-info (an independent human rights media project aimed at combating political persecution in Russia), over 8000 Russians have already been arrested by the authorities. Those who have come out to protest the war are without a doubt, worthy of praise of the highest order.
The entire world is watching the suffering of Ukrainians. However, the war is not only happening on the ground, but on the long foreseen battlefield of the 21st century: the Internet. Russia is determined to spread its propaganda and misinformation with hopes to prevent Ukrainian sympathy from setting down roots in the western world. Do not let yourself be confused. It most definitely is not a “special military operation” as Putin claims it to be.
IT IS A WAR.
Russian media, controlled by the government, is indeed trying to convince the entire world of its lies. Specifically, however, they want to convince their own citizens that this is merely a peacekeeping operation, intended to liberate Ukraine from their toxic western influences. They are trying to convince everyone that they are there to save Ukrainians from their Nazi government. Maksim Katz, an independent Russian political and public figure comments on this: “I want to reiterate a few things that we all need to remember and repeat. This war was started by us, by Russia, for no reason at all, we simply invaded the territory of a neighboring country. We are not saving anyone from fascists, there are no fascists in power there. They have a popularly elected Jewish president who was a famous Russian-speaking actor before he was elected, he can’t be a Nazi, and neither can his entourage. Ukrainians are fighting for their freedom. No one there welcomes our troops with flowers, they are considered occupiers…Right now, Russian weapons are killing Ukrainians and Russians, Russian-speaking civilians, Ukrainian and Russian soldiers, and both countries are suffering enormous damage. There is only one way to stop this: to immediately withdraw troops from Ukraine and to prosecute those who unleashed this war.”
Russia claims that they are not targeting civilians. That is yet another outright lie. Russia is targeting residential areas which is a severe war crime. Vladimir Zelensky reported major damage and casualties in places with no military infrastructure. Disturbing videos are surfacing on the internet with tanks having been caught on camera changing course in order to run over civilian cars and bombs recorded striking civilian homes. The video reports and pictures coming in from Ukraine are truly horrifying and, unfortunately, there is no definite way to figure out the truth from fake news. However, with such overwhelming evidence of Russian artillery strikes hitting non-military areas and buildings, it is impossible to deny Russia’s incentives, which appear to have a terroristic nature and are aimed at the people of Ukraine and not just the government or the armed forces. Yet Russia still claims that they are only targeting military objects. These are nothing but lies propagated by the Kremlin. It is clear that Putin will stop at nothing as he orders nuclear weapons on high alert.
Russian propaganda claims that the Ukrainian military is surrendering en masse. Nothing could be further from the truth. Zelensky and other government officials are taking up arms and defending their country against the Russian invaders. He even rejected an offer from the U.S. to be evacuated, saying words that echoed around the world: “I need ammunition, not a ride.”
This attitude of defending Ukraine against all odds is not unique to Zelensky. The mayor of Kyiv, Vitali Klitschko, is staying in Kyiv to defend his countrymen against the invaders. In addition, Former Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko, is also staying to defend his nation and announced a powerful message to Putin: ”This is our soil. This is our country. This is our people! And Putin has nothing to do here. Get out from Ukraine, Mr. Putin!”
I grew up in Eastern Europe in Lithuania. My country knows the horrors of what Russian occupation entails. Lithuania’s people stood against Soviet tanks in defense of their independence on January 13, 1991. I speak Russian, I understand Ukrainian, I hear the people of Ukraine cursing the Russian army as they are filming the atrocities that are happening. I hear them vowing to avenge for the destruction of their homeland and the murder of their people. I can’t describe to you the utter horror I felt when I woke up on a Thursday morning to find out that my beloved Ukraine is being bombed. To see the streets of Kyiv that I walked down as a child, turned into a battlefield. I can’t possibly imagine the utter hell that Ukrainians are going through right now, but I see how they are fighting. Ukrainians have demonstrated tremendous bravery and self-sacrifice inflicting devastating losses on the Russian armies. Men and women are enlisting as volunteers to fight off the aggressors. Ukrainians are prepared to defend their home at all costs. They are assembling into groups to gather much-needed supplies, making Molotov cocktails, and standing up against Russian tanks and soldiers. They are fighting for every street, every corner, and every centimeter of land. Zelensky appeared virtually in front of the EU parliament, after signing an application for Ukraine to join the European Union, and made a promise to win this war and made his goal very clear: “We have a desire to see our children alive. I think it’s a fair one.”
Examples of Ukrainian bravery are endless. I could not possibly name every one of them. But I do know that they need our help. Fight the Russian propaganda online. Donate to verified sources. Let Ukrainians know that you support them. This is not a war somewhere far away. Ukraine is fighting for all of us. Ukraine is fighting for democracy worldwide. Ukraine is fighting to maintain the barricade against Russian expansionism for generations to come. The world will never be the same again. It’s up to us to determine what kind of world it will be. Together we can stop Russian aggression.
Ukraine will prevail. Glory to Ukraine! Glory to Heroes!
How can you help Ukraine:
- Razom for Ukraine https://razomforukraine.org/
- DONATE: Support Ukrainian Armed Forces https://www.blue-yellow.lt/en/
- Sign the petition to urge NATO to close Ukrainian airspace https://www.openpetition.eu/petition/online/people-around-the-world-ask-nato-to-close-the-airspace-over-ukraine
- Rallies in support of Ukraine https://www.stopputin.net/?fbclid=IwAR3Ihc67BCxBHcFhM_cNAHKnpK4pjYq-bn7eO9f1cXTblD4WHapdo5WMFc8
- Write and Call your Elected Officials – Instructions https://docs.google.com/document/d/1s2RFC2nHgTGbI5-Aq8mhesEi__h3xsMWpyeSwXjbJVU/edit
- DONATE: Humanitarian Aid to Ukraine https://www.facebook.com/donate/1137971146948461/
- DONATE: Come back Alive https://savelife.in.ua/en/donate/
- DONATE: Support hospitals in Ukraine https://4agc.com/fundraiser_pages/e9aca7e4-13d5-4e67-b6bd-548f94822793#.YhupDhOZNfS
- Click the link for more resources: https://linktr.ee/RazomForUkraine