It has been thirteen days since Russia launched a full-scale war against Ukraine. But this war is much longer than that: it started 8 years ago in 2014 when Russia annexed Crimea and sponsored separatists in Donbas. This is the new chapter of the war, which is now waged on a bigger scale and is much bloodier, though the first eight years caused more than 15,000 deaths and displaced nearly 2 million people. It started at 4.40 am on 24 February 2022 and already caused unimaginable suffering and loss. By Day 13, nearly 1,800,000 people have sought refuge abroad; the amount of people internally displaced is impossible to verify. Ukrainian cities, towns and villages in the east, west, south, and north are relentlessly bombarded and shelled in broad daylight and in the middle of the night. Russia launched over 600 missiles into Ukraine, targeting civilians and crucial infrastructure. Numerous hospitals are destroyed, and critically ill children are forced into bomb shelters as Russian troops do not offer a green corridor for evacuations.
But Ukraine surprised not only Putin by denying him the satisfaction of Blitzkrieg but also the world. The Ukrainian Armed Forces (ZSU) fought off vicious attacks of the aggressor and did not concede either Kyiv, the capital and heart of the country, or Kharkiv, the second largest city. At the time of writing, over 100,000 people joined territorial defence units; civilians, without any weapons, continue to stop tanks, while residents of temporarily occupied areas, such as Nova Kakhovka and Kherson, continue to protest with Ukrainian flags while being shot at. Ukraine captured the hearts of the world with its defiance, resistance and resilience. According to a recent poll, nearly 90% of the population support President Zelensky’s response to Russia. But the country needs more support to survive and defeat the aggressor.
As a Ukrainian abroad, I have been living in two parallel realities since 24 February 2022: that of war, experienced through the eyes of my family in the country (mostly in the south-east, a region that has experienced some of the worst shelling) and countless digital channels (from Telegram to Facebook) and the rest of day-to-day life, which is also overshadowed by the war. At times I felt helpless but have now identified ways in which I can help, and there are many. You do not have to be Ukrainian to contribute. Here are just a few ideas how to make a difference:
- Donate money. Many people fleeing the war had left their homes without even a change of clothes, others who stayed increasingly rely on humanitarian aid. Your donations can also support the Ukrainian army, that keeps fighting fearlessly, but also protects the civilian population. The lists of trusted organisations have been prepared by the Ukrainian Institute in London and can be found here and Ukrainian London. I can also recommend the Campaign “Come Back Alive”.
If you know a Ukrainian, there is a good chance they either do their own fundraising or know a few other trusted causes, which you can support, just ask them. For instance, a few of my friends are collecting money to buy radio equipment, helmets, and bullet proof vests outside of Ukraine and deliver it to those on the ground.
- Donate time. You can volunteer at a local centre, collecting donations, join a protest or offer help to Ukrainian refugees arriving in your country. If it is the UK, you can register your details here.
- Become part of the digital forces. It is no secret that the majority of Russians still believe the state media and think their government is conducting a “special military operation” in Ukraine. There is a plethora of initiatives aimed at countering the Russian propaganda and spreading the word about the Russian aggression. Two of them, created on the initiative of the Ukrainian government are doing particularly important work. IT professionals can join the IT Army of Ukraine using the Telegram App at https://t.me/itarmyofukraine2022, the rest can find a task from Internet Forces of Ukraine at https://facebook.com/Ukrainian.internet.army or https://t.me/ivukr
- Write to your representative in the Parliament. You can email your MP asking for more sanctions against Russia or better protection for Ukrainian refugees. An example of the letter can be found here.
This leads me to the final point about further international support. The international community so far has shown unprecedented unity, for which Ukraine is very grateful. More still can and should be done, however, for Ukraine to win the war and stop the mindless killing of civilians, which is turning into the genocide of Ukrainians. Today, Ukraine needs further sanctions (the EU and the USA can still refuse to buy Russian oil and gas), more weapons, with the priority for combat aircraft and air defence systems, and most importantly a no-fly zone over at least part of its territory. So far Ukraine’s pleading for the latter fell on deaf ears, with NATO explaining that introducing such a zone would amount to joining the war. This refusal costs innocent Ukrainians lives every minute and every second of this war. Russian rockets and missiles destroy homes, schools and hospitals, they kill families, children (including babies), women and men. While many agree that this war is not simply about Ukraine and that Ukraine defends democracy and freedom, Ukraine fights alone. The West is already part of this war, and the longer it leaves Ukraine fighting it alone the more it will become complicit in the war crimes Putin’s regime is committing in Ukraine.
The world must stand with Ukraine in action and not only in words.
Glory to Ukraine!
Dr Anastasiia Kudlenko, firstname.lastname@example.org
Post-Doctoral Research Associate, GCRF COMPASS, University of Kent