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PBS News Hour image in Ukraine. Image by Nick Schifrin.

One year. Three hundred and sixty-five days.

Eight million refugees are spread across Europe. Some 18 million people displaced within Ukraine are urgently in need of help. Russia is committing untold and unutterable targeting of civilians, and unspeakable crimes against humanity. The front is a grinding trench warfare where progress is measured in feet.

This is the war in Ukraine one year after Russian President Vladimir Putin began his “special military action.”

Kharkiv emergency personnel work to locate and evacuate people from the Kharkiv City Hall after renewed bombing by Russia on Tuesday, March 1. Photo released by Russian State Communications

Ukraine is a country defending its right to exist and Ukrainians are a people and a culture fiercely determined to survive.

They are doing it as Russia is indiscriminately bombing everything from apartment homes to performing arts centers, kindergartens and train stations, energy infrastructure and water treatment facilities.

Russia, as this journalist has pointed out several times even before the invasion, is the aggressor. What Putin planned — an operation that would take at most a few weeks to enter the capital, take over, and see the 40 million Ukrainians flock adoringly around the victorious Russian troops — turned out to be a fairy tale.

More than 17,000 Ukrainians are dead, compared to more than 100,000 Russian soldiers. We’re describing the worst land war on the European continent since the world wars — a war that has disintegrated into protracted trench warfare that recalls the worst of World War I.

This past week, Putin finally referred to the conflict as war — then went on to claim that this is a war with the West — that NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization) started it to destroy Russia.

Civilians hiding in subway cars below ground as Russian bombed Kyiv. Photo by Associated Press.

This is not true. But those of us, including this journalist who has dealt with Putin and Russia, know that Putin has never been bothered with the truth.

He is a bully, and he wants what he wants — which is power. He doesn’t even care about his own soldiers, let alone the people of Ukraine who are just in his way.

There may be some who ask — ‘what has this got to do with me?”

The answer is a blunt one: Ukraine is the front line of the fight to defend democracy.

Unless you’ve had your head in a hole, America and Western European nations are democracies, Ukraine set out to be one, and the Russian president (in name only, he’s a dictator who leads an autocracy) hates us.

This is a clash of world views: he hates our concept of government, our freedoms, and the fact that we — and Ukraine — stand in his way.

In December 2021, Ark Valley Voice provided an overview of the ambitions and goals of Putin for Russia. That assessment has not changed.

The Ukrainians have shown the world that they can fight, and there is hope that they can prevail. Supporting them in their fight is to our advantage — unless we want Putin to continue to advance across Europe and the rest of the world. If that were to happen at some point — as we did twice in the 20th Century — the United States could find itself in another world war.

Think that’s impossible?

They said that in 193o’s about Hitler too.