OpEd: Russia Invaded Ukraine Over 150 Days Ago – Are You Still Paying Attention?

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It has now been over 150 days since Russia commenced its war in Ukraine. We have to be clear on that, because Russia actually began its invasion of Ukraine in February, 2014 when it invaded, and subsequently annexed Crimea. That invasion has now been followed by its ongoing “special operation” in Eastern Ukraine.

To put things in perspective, as of July 19, 2022, and since February 24, 2022, nearly 9.6 million people are reported to have crossed the border from Ukraine into other neighboring countries. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has also recorded 12,272 civilian casualties in the country: 5,237 killed and 7,035 injured during this time ….. For what?

I submit, as have many historians including Rutgers University’s Alexander Motyl that the answer is that, “for the “Putin regime” and its yes-men, the mere fact of the Ukrainian state’s and people’s separate, independent existence violates their interpretation of Russia’s history, greatness, and imperial destiny.” Ever since I can remember, when world history was still taught in public schools in the U.S., it was historically acknowledged that Ukraine existed before Russia and that Russia was born of “Kyivan Rus.” “Ukraine” was mentioned for the first time in the Hypatian Chronicle (a.k.a. Hypatian Code) in the 12th century. It was not referenced as Little Rus’ or something else, but Ukraine. Nobody heard or knew about Moscow and Russia at that time. The Russian Empire did not exist then and only came into existence circa 1721 (some 500 years later) when Peter 1 of Russian founded it. So, aside from its cultural proximity, we can state that Ukraine’s sentimental and spiritual appeal to many Russians derives from the fact that the Kyivan Rus’ – a medieval state that came into existence in the 9th century and was centered around present-day Kiev – is regarded as a joint ancestral homeland that laid the foundations for both modern Russia and Ukraine. But does that lay a basis or foundation for committing genocide?

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Fast forward to today …. 150+ days into this war Russia/Putin face the reality that Ukraine is not going to just “roll over.” This has led Russia to take further drastic measure reminiscent of the 1932-33 Holodomor in Ukraine when Stalin and Russia caused mass starvation in Ukraine. Recently, Putin and Russia have undertaken similar tactics, but this time by shelling fields of grain with incendiary bombs, stealing millions of tons of grain from Ukrainian silos and ports, and mining and blockading shipping routes. Unfortunately, in today’s day and age, this has a global impact, not just a direct impact on Ukraine. If that isn’t enough, let’s not set aside or diminish the impact of Russian’s weaponizing of energy resources. The world has become somewhat dependent on Russian gas and oil, and I really don’t need to say more, as we are all feeling it at the pumps.

Since the beginning of the most recent invasion, there has been a global outpouring of support for Ukraine. Many countries, including the United States, Canada, United Kingdom … and those as far as Japan and Australia have sent arms, defensive weapons, drones, and medical and humanitarian aid. Poland, Ukraine’s neighbor to the west has taken in millions of Ukrainian refugees and welcomed them with open arms. But this is not sustainable. Quoting Simon Tisdall (The Guardian – London) “The idea the Ukraine’s conflict could be confined to Ukraine – NATO’s politically convenient grand delusion – and that western sanctions and arms supplies would stop the Russians, was always a nonsense. Now, enraged by Kyiv’s stubborn resistance and hell-bent on punishing his punishers, Putin’s aim is the immiseration of Europe.” I however submit, not just Europe, but world. “Russia’s destabilization operations, social media manipulation, cyber-attacks, diplomatic double-talk, nuclear blackmail, plus its unrelenting slaughter of civilians in Ukraine, will only intensify Europe’s state of siege in the months ahead.… and then whose next.

The foregoing are just a few examples of how Russia’s actions against Ukraine track actions Russia has taken in prior history and its efforts to “re-write history” to fit its agenda. While it may be easy for those of us that live worlds away from the actual war, the fight, and the traumatic effects of these actions, we must remain steadfast in the protection of history and democracy. Our failure to support Ukraine, or other countries seeking to fight oppressive regimes will lead to massive changes in the global order and have massive effects on the world as we know it now, and for future generations to come.

We, as a democratic, leading nation of the world, must be the flag bearer for those aspiring to attain such. Recognition of and assisting in the fight against atrocities is only a small portion of what we can and should do. It is not only Ukraine’s democracy and borders that are at stake. What is at stake, is everything that the US was built upon and stands for.

Markian Silecky, a long-time Verona resident, is the chairman of the World Ukrainian Foundation. Donations to support Ukraine can be made by visiting www.uwfusa.org/

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