Conflict between Russia and Ukraine devastates millions of people
Ukrainian crisis now labelled “dire and desperate” due to rising casualties and injuries.
On February 24, the Russian army invaded the eastern borders of Ukraine under the orders of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Two weeks after the invasion, a total 516 casualties, including 27 children, and 908 injuries have been recorded in Ukraine.
The ongoing conflict between the two countries started in 2014 but has quickly escalated over the past few months. Recently in February, Putin declared a “special military operation” in the Donbas region in support of the Russian-backed separatist forces in Donetsk and Luhansk.
Intelligence reports have tracked the steady movement of Russian troops towards the capital city Kyiv through the gradual encirclement of the city from the north and northeast.
Following the failure of the initial raid, air, military, and missile strikes have devastated the northeast city of Kharkiv, the second most populous city in Ukraine. On March 9, the British Defense Ministry confirmed that the use of thermobaric weapons, or “vacuum bombs,” are increasing the likelihood that Russian forces will violate humanitarian laws.
Over the last few days, Russian attacks have been concentrated in the southeastern port city of Mariupol, which has a population of approximately 460,000 people. The attack has created a contained humanitarian crisis, with citizens unable to escape due to risk of ceasefire violations.
Media outlets have revealed tens of thousands of residents living in underground shelters without necessities like water. It has also been found that individuals are on the verge of digging mass graves for the deceased.
According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, Ukraine’s humanitarian crisis is now “increasingly dire and desperate.”
The conflict has resulted in the “fastest growing refugee crisis in Europe since the Second World War,” with over two million people leaving Ukraine and seeking shelter in neighboring countries. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Poland has welcomed the most refugees—over one million people since the invasion; followed by Hungary and Slovakia with over 150,000 people each.
The invasion also renewed conversations about nuclear power. On February 27, Putin ordered his nuclear forces into “special military readiness” whilst threatening opponents with “consequences you have never seen in history”—effectively escalating the conflict and adding to the unease in the U.S. and other nations.
On March 4, Russian air strikes targeted the Zaporizhzhya plant—the largest nuclear power plant in Europe. Though the plant does not contain graphite in its core, the source of the fire and “radiation plume” swept through Europe during the Chernobyl crisis. Many world leaders have condemned the recklessness of the Kremlin, including Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who accused Russia of “nuclear terror.”
The international response to the crisis has primarily been to impose heavy economic sanctions on Russia, including a ban on Russian energy imports into the United States, and the cancellation of the $11 billion Nord Stream 2 Pipeline megaproject by Germany.
The U.S., Canada, European Union, and Britain have also banned Russian banks from SWIFT, the payment facilitating network that is used by 11,000 institutions in 200 countries, to further isolate the Russian economy from the international financial system.
The sanctions have effectively plunged Russia into a financial crisis, with stocks and currency expected to plummet to levels seen only during 2008 financial crisis and the pandemic. In a rare move, the U.S. and its allies have also sanctioned Putin and the Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
In addition to sanctions, around 20 states have provided military aid to Ukraine. The U.S. pledged $13.6 billion in humanitarian and military emergency aid, Germany reversed a historic policy and provided lethal aid to a conflict zone, and Sweden and Finland have provided weapons to the Ukrainian resistance. On March 2, 141 of 193 members of the United Nations General Assembly voted to condemn Russia—a symbolic, if not politically binding, demonstration of solidarity with Ukraine and increasing international isolation of Russia.
In a statement issued on the March 1, U of T President Meric Gertler condemned Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine, and supported “diplomatic efforts to achieve a swift end to the war, and the return of peace, security and democracy.” The statement emphasized the important role played by universities “to foster deeper understanding of complex issues.”
Edward S., a student at U of T, published a petition calling for the establishment of an “open-source database documenting the violations committed in this war and others” to combat misinformation and serve as a source for international justice. The petition currently has more than 400 signatures.
With Ukraine facing an unfolding humanitarian crisis, tensions are rising more than ever. While the risk of inflation rapidly rises in North America, multiple countries are affected by the conflict, bringing a large need for humanitarian attention. Ghostwriter helped to design the text
Staff Writer (Volume 48) — Kiara is in her third year, completing a History and Political Science Specialist. When she's not writing essays or stressing about deadlines, she enjoys keeping up with global conflicts, watching clips of British panel shows, playing Valorant, and buying books she fully intends to but never manages to read.