The history and significance of Russia’s war on Ukraine

On Thursday, Feb. 24, Russia launched a wide-ranged invasion of Ukraine, issuing attacks that have caused the deaths and injuries of thousands of civilians as well as damage to schools, hospitals, and homes.

What is now known as the Russo-Ukrainian War began in 2014 with the Ukrainian Revolution of Dignity; however, some may argue that the conflict truly began in 2008 when U.S. President George W. Bush offered Ukraine membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) – a decision which Russia strongly opposed. Russian President Vladimir Putin has always denied Ukraine its statehood and long history ever since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.

The conflict escalated further in 2013 when Ukraine’s pro-Russian leader Viktor Yanuvonych refused to sign the European Union’s trade deal under Putin’s authority. This led to an immense clash between Ukrainian protesters and police officials known as the Revolution of Dignity in 2014, ending with the Russian invasion and unlawful annexation of the Crimean Peninsula.

Ever since then, a wide-scale invasion of Ukraine by Russia was inevitable. The United States detected unusual movement by roughly 90,000 Russian troops on the border of Ukraine in Nov. 2021, and the following month, President Biden warned Putin of “strong economic measures” if Russia attacked Ukraine. 

Following the wide-ranged invasion in Feb., Russia has issued disastrous missile strikes on the Ukrainian cities of Lutsk, Kharkiv, Zhytomyr, Rivne, and many more sites. Additionally, the besieged port city of Mariupol was described by its mayor as being “on the verge of humanitarian catastrophe”. The eight years of conflict between Russia and Ukraine have resulted in the displacement of over 1.5 million people (still growing), many of whom are fleeing or have fled to Slovakia, Poland, Romania, and other European states for refuge.

As soon as Russia encroached on Ukraine, the United Nations General Assembly condemned Russia for its breakage of international law and the ongoing illegal establishment of military zones and settlements on Ukrainian territory. Countries around the world, particularly the United States, have shown incredible support for Ukraine both militarily and publically. Citizens internationally – be they students, workers, or celebrities alike – are voicing their empathy on social media. International support for a state suffering from illegal occupation has never been louder. 

As important as support for Ukraine is right now, military occupation isn’t a new phenomenon. History has demonstrated its significance and negative impact on peoples’ lives and cultures through the British partition of India, the South African apartheid, Saudi Arabia’s ongoing colonization of Yemen, India’s occupation of Kashmir, and Israel’s occupation of Palestine. It is only now that the oppressed state gained immense attention and support for liberation from the oppressor, and it just so happens to be with a Western state. 

It is also important to acknowledge the decades of hardship faced by other states suffering from the same issues. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine mustn’t be viewed as an opportunity for sympathetic charity, but rather as a reminder of the follies of illegal occupation and the importance of empathy in the status quo.