In a ground war the likes of which the world has not seen since World War II, Russia is continuing its advance into Ukraine, from the east into the Donbas region, the south out of Crimea, from the north out of Belarus. For those who may believe this has nothing to do with us, it would be good to remember that European war has always had a habit of dragging in the rest of the world.
Yesterday after heavy resistance from the Ukrainian military, Russian forces took the area of Chernobyl, the site of the 1986 nuclear meltdown, the worst nuclear accident in history. In the process, they destroyed a nuclear waste containment site.
This morning the Russian forces are advancing on the Ukrainian Capital of Kyiv, where attack sirens continue to sound. It is reported by Ukrainian civilians and news media that Russian troops are donning Ukrainian military uniforms, the better to hide their approach.
The population of Kyiv is crowding into underground subway stations and basements, with young children, pets, bags of belongings, and waiting on train platforms for any way out of the city of 2.8 million people.
People are terrified, disbelieving; would we be any less so?
This is the kind of war of which their grandparents and great grandparents talked. But never — not in the 21st century — did the population of Ukraine, a peaceful democratic country and the largest country in Europe believe that this could happen to them. Neither did most of Europe, which has endured not one, but two world wars; the last one was the deadliest military conflict in history. An estimated total of 70 to 85 million people perished, or about three percent of the 1940 world population.
Roads out of Kyiv are bumper to bumper, as people stream out of Kyiv toward the western border with Poland, a NATO country. Near the border, as the traffic has piled up and the wait is hours long, civilians are getting out of their cars, pushing baby strollers, dragging suitcases and bags across the border, making desperate efforts to reach the other side.
According to journalists on the ground, many are getting children and the elderly out of harm’s way to the west, and say they are going to turn around and fight.
“I will fight for my country. I value my freedom,” said one Kyiv man interviewed by a western journalist on the ground there. “Putin underestimates us. We are a democracy. What else can we do – we will fight.”
This is a full-scale invasion. Any readers who disagree with that may not have heard that as of 12:50 EST today, ABC News reported that NATO has activated its NATO Response Force, marking the first time the alliance has activated the potentially 40,000-person force for “a deterrence and defense” role, according to a NATO spokesperson.
Casualty counts are already coming in. Estimates are that this aggression will result in thousands dead and wounded. At least four million refugees are expected to flood into the NATO areas of Europe – or 10 percent of the Ukrainian population of 40 million people.
War is being pressed forward at least three areas of Ukraine; Kyiv, the Donbas, and the southern Ukraine seaport of Odessa near Crimea. But the word is that Russia isn’t moving as quickly as Russian President Vladimir Putin thought it would. The Ukrainian military – outgunned and outnumbered is putting up a heroic resistance.
The NATO nations’ sanctions on Russia are good. Assistance to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s government, which is still in Kyiv is better. NATO troops massed along the borders shared with Russia are even better. Putin only understands force.
It has been said that “hypocrisy is not just a moral failure, it is is a strategy.”
To the Russian people, Putin continues to claim that he is responding to “Ukrainian aggression”, that he has ordered this military action to secure the border of Russia from western aggression — that the government of Ukraine “isn’t a real government.” Russian state media is claiming that Russia isn’t attacking Kyiv, that the Ukrainian military shot down its own plane, and that Ukraine was trying to develop a nuclear weapon. None of this is true.
Putin denies democracy because he chooses to. His hypocrisy is equaled only by his ambitions of control and power.
Yesterday across 54 Russian cities, thousands of Russians defied Putin to let the world know they don’t believe his lies. Overnight, the demonstrations by Russians objecting to the war are continuing.
They are heroic too.
At this point, readers could stop and consider this: Other than what our governments are telling us (and the U.S. intelligence has been 100 percent right about Putin’s moves so far) what has been your source for information about this human travesty? Who has been giving you your information?
In fact, photojournalist Wolfgang Schwan, with whom Ark Valley Voice has contacts, is documenting this slaughter in Ukraine right now for Getty Images (we can’t afford his photos and hope he is safe). Bravely, continuously, in flak jackets and helmets with prominent press signs, journalists are bringing you the truth of this invasion. This is not liberation. This is war.
It has also been journalists like The New Voice of Ukraine Executive Editor Veronica Melkozerova, who this morning spoke from her apartment in Kyiv to MSNBC, with the sound of bomb blasts in the background. “Every Ukrainian man and woman are going to give a fight. We are not being liberated as Putin says, we are being crushed. But we will fight for our freedom.”
She added that her 78-year-old Babushka, born before the end of World War II, told her “We are proud of the Ukrainian army. They are very brave on their own against the second greatest army in the world.” Melkozerova paused and swallowed, near tears. “We are alone against the Russian shelling. You will all pay more for energy, but it is incomparable to when Russians are bombing your city… this is the life we have — and the life you might have …”
If this were a saga instead of real life, it could be subtitled “good against evil”. By now it should be clear to all of us exactly who is who.
Featured image: A protest sign in Spain, protesting the Russian invasion of Ukraine; on the left the blue and yellow national colors of Ukraine. By Manu Fernandez for the Associated Press.