Slava Ukraini (glory to Ukraine): a year of war


Katie Burns

Graphic by Katie Burns.

by Jenna Prather, News Editor

One year ago, on Feb. 24, 2022, Russia unleashed their unjust assault on Ukraine. The war has resulted in the deaths of thousands, forced millions to leave their homes, destroyed cities and created a worldwide fear that it may become something bigger.

As the milestone approaches, it raises an even larger question: when will it end?

The answer can only be “not soon enough.” It is likely that the war is far from over, both Russia and Ukraine are unwilling to give up the fight and neither are close to their objectives.

According to The Guardian, as of Sunday Feb. 19, Russia controlled just over 40,600 square miles in Ukraine, about 17% of Ukraine’s total landmass and roughly equivalent to the size of Iceland.

Clearly this isn’t satisfying enough for Russia, as the country sets its sights on the Donbas region of east Ukraine. Ukrainian troops have been holding their positions in Donbas for a number of days in preparation for a potential strike in the wake of the anniversary.

Ukraine has received substantial aid from the United States and the European Union and a large majority of countries are on their side.

Much of the world has banded together in support of Ukraine; flying the nation’s blue and yellow flags, throwing out anything from Russia and seeing to it that Ukraine takes home wins in multiple worldwide competitions (such as Eurovision and Miss Universe).

But all this support does not take away from the bloodshed of war and the staggering numbers that come with it.

According to the latest UN human rights office (OHCHR) data, at least 8,000 non-combatants have been confirmed killed – with nearly 13,300 injured – since the Russian invasion began last year. The true number is likely to be substantially higher, as OHCHR staff have said on many occasions.

As of February 14, 2023, over 18.6 million border crossings were recorded from Ukraine to other countries starting from February 24, 2022, when the Russian invasion of the country began. Furthermore, the number of border crossings into Ukraine was close to 10.3 million. The main destination of the refugees was Poland.

On Monday, President Biden made a brief, unannounced visit to Kyiv, aimed at expressing solidarity with Ukrainians. Biden met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and announced new aid as Russian forces make their push to take the Donbas region.

Tuesday, President Vladimir Putin suspended Moscow’s participation in the last remaining nuclear arms control pact with the United States, announcing the move in a speech in which he made clear he would not change his strategy in the war in Ukraine.

As he has done many times before, Putin blamed the West for provoking the war, accusing the U.S. and its European allies of wanting to acquire “limitless power.” He cast both his country as well as Ukraine as victims in “Western double-dealing” and said it was Russia, not Ukraine, fighting for its very existence.

“We aren’t fighting the Ukrainian people,” Putin said. “The Ukrainian people have become hostages of the Kyiv regime and its Western masters, which have effectively occupied the country.”

On the same day, in Warsaw, Poland, Biden followed with his own speech.

“One year ago, the world was bracing for the fall of Kyiv,” Biden said. “Well, I have just come from a visit to Kyiv, and I can report that Kyiv stands strong, Kyiv stands proud, it stands tall and, most important, it stands free.

“When President Putin ordered his tanks to roll into Ukraine, he thought we would roll over. He was wrong,” he said.

Biden added: “The West was not plotting to attack Russia, as Putin said today…This war was never a necessity. It’s a tragedy. President Putin chose this war,”

Ukraine is still here. That itself is a defeat for the Kremlin, who saw the country as a quick defeat a year ago but were surprised to find that the Ukrainian people are not so easily defeated.

What began Feb. 24, 2022 hasn’t led to World War III (“yet” as the pessimists may say). But the past year was, in the words of Zelenskyy, “an abundance of pain, filth, blood and death.”

For the time ahead, we can only be hopeful.