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As the bombardment of Kyiv continues and the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine by Russia rolls on, there are villains and heroes. The world loves an underdog –and surely that is what Ukraine is.

The villain is clear

Russian President/dictator Vladimir Putin is a bully. He has manufactured an enemy and invaded his neighbor based on hypocrisy and lies. Ukraine is a peace-loving sovereign nation with democratically-elected leaders.

As the Ukrainian Ambassador to the United Nations said so clearly in his address on Wednesday night to the United Nations National Security Council (NSC) “There is no purgatory for war criminals. They go directly to hell.” Some 23 minutes earlier as the NSC was meeting, Russia began the attack on his country.

Given the past three days, western leaders need to seriously question Putin’s motives.

He claimed it was to declare separatist regions of the Donbas as independent and put space between Russia and NATO. But the multi-front assault on a peaceful democracy, and the obvious drive to take Ukraine’s capital Kyiv, should open our eyes. There is no guarantee that Putin will stop with Ukraine. The Baltics, Poland, Republic of Georgia, Moldova, Romania, Slovakia, and Armenia — all former Soviet bloc countries that have moved toward western democracy — may be in his sights.

Putin has made himself a pariah. Even some of Russia’s allies are backing up; Kazakhstan, which received Russian help for a civil insurrection several months ago, has declined to send troops to Ukraine to help him.

History makes heroes

Some heroes are known, others less well-known.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is showing the bravery of a hero-leader; rallying his people from Kyiv. He refused to leave when the U.S. offered to evacuate him saying, “I need ammunition, not a ride.” He is in grave danger, and he continues to show himself on the streets of the capital, encouraging and urging his people to resist. In Ukraine’s hour of need, he has risen to the occasion.

Putin calls Zelensky a Nazi. Zelensky is Jewish. His grandparents fought the Nazis and he lost three family members in the Holocaust.

The amazing people of Ukraine have been heroic. They are resisting; shouldering weapons, fighting back, refusing to give up their democracy or their country. They give “stand your ground” a new, pure meaning.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is solidly hanging together; awakened to the real threat posed by Putin, not just to Ukraine and Europe, but to the world. As Putin menaces in real-time and the future of all of us, this cohesion will become more necessary than ever before

There are heroes in Russia; ordinary people, even the children of Russian government officials, protesting this attack on Ukraine, joining the protests breaking out all around the world. In Russia, this can get you arrested, jailed, or ‘disappeared’. Even a few members of the Russia Duma (their congress) now say they voted to recognize the two separatist regions of Ukraine, not to invade and take Kyiv.

There are brave journalists covering this shocking aggression all across Ukraine. And there are other journalists covering what is happening here as disinformation permeates social media. Journalists have pointed out that there are Republican pundits, and former U.S. government officials cheering on Putin.

Rollingstone was one of many news media reporting that former U.S. President Trump, hearing of Putin’s invasion on a right-wing podcast said, “I said this is genius. Putin declared a big portion of … Ukraine … as independent. Oh, that’s wonderful. … I said, ‘How smart is that?”

Seriously? The U.S. has always stood for democracy and freedom, and a former president is cheering on his buddy Putin? This could be called not just anti-democratic, but nothing short of seditious encouragement.

Representative Marjorie Taylor Green spoke this weekend at a white nationalist conference organized by white supremacists and racist Nick Fuentes. Among the crowd were prominent right-wing extremists who have been photographed giving the Nazi salute and reciting the infamous “14 words,” a white supremacist slogan — calling them “canceled Americans” and referring to democrats as communists. Before Green spoke, Fuentes solicited a round of applause for Russia in its invasion of Ukraine, and the conference crowd chanted “Putin, Putin.”

 Standing for Democracy

It’s simple; you are either for democracy, or you are against democracy. There is no middle ground. This is the time to say whether you support our efforts to help a fellow democratic country under attack by a nuclear-armed authoritarian power, or not. Clearly, Trump is siding with an unhinged Putin. Whether or not the rest of the Republicans agree with him or support the cause of freedom is in question.

If you are for democracy, then you are for free and fair elections, for facts and truth, and respect for the sovereign state of countries protected by international law. From our perspective, every single person running for office at any level must tell us where they stand on this.

Every free person in the world must recognize the threat that Putin represents. He’s not being logical, he is being emotional, and that makes him more dangerous. Late Saturday, this isolated, apparently unhinged dictator told his military leadership to be prepared should they require nuclear action.

I choked back emotions as I wrote yesterday’s news piece on this war of aggression. I have seen this coming for years, but did not want to believe it. Neither, it seems did the rest of the world. But it is here.

At no point in my journalistic career did I ever think that I would be writing such words. I have lived in Europe, traveled in Russia and the former Soviet countries. My daughter is from the Pskov region of Russia on the border with Estonia. My Ukrainian foreign exchange son grew up in Crimea and with his young family lives in Kyiv. Our son was a Rotary exchange student in Crimea and has worked in other former Soviet bloc countries. I have many friends from my years calling upon the embassies in Washington D.C. of the former Soviet bloc countries and especially warm relationships with those who have served in the Ukrainian Embassy to the U.S.

What Putin does next could be anything, but it most assuredly won’t be good.

Editor’s Note: Our Voice is the editorial section of Ark Valley Voice. Rarely is a news story first-person; our role is to provide fact-based news and information to readers.  But it has been difficult to write news stories about the Russian invasion of Ukraine. As a journalist, I pray for Ukraine.

Featured image: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressing his nation only a few days before the Russian invasion began. Image courtesy of YouTube.