Putin’s aggression on Ukraine – an explanation and the effect on the youth

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On 24th February 2022, conflicts between Russia and Ukraine escalated with Russia invading Ukraine by air, land, and sea. Russia doesn’t only attack Ukrainian military units, but also civilian areas. This has brought fear to Ukrainian citizens which made more than 1 million refugees flee the country in just one week after the start of the Russian attacks. NATO countries have tried every possible way to persuade Putin to give up the attacks. However, Russian president has not shown any sign of relenting his military operations and he has even threatened with raising the level of readiness of Russian nuclear weapons. If Putin attacks any NATO country, other members will have to take action and that could lead to the biggest war since World War 2, which would cause an enormous economic crisis and poverty all around the world . In order to help Ukraine resist and save their country, Ukrainians are receiving armed and financial support from all around the world but NATO doesn’t want to involve in the conflict directly so that the war would not spread out of the Ukrainian borders.

Historical context

Back in 1922 Russia and Ukraine were the two founding members of the Soviet Union which collapsed in 1991 when Representatives from the Soviet republics (Ukraine, Georgia, Belarus, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan) had announced that they would no longer be part of the Soviet Union due to the economic crisis and the countries wanting to be independent. Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev announced the dissolution of the Soviet Union which finally ended the Cold war between the Soviet Union and the United States. After that, Russia lost its importance and when in 1999 Vladimir Putin got in a president seat, he set his mind on restoring Russian pride. While communism remained in Russia, Ukraine bent towards the West wanting to join the EU and NATO. In 2008, former US president George Bush tried to include Ukraine and Georgia in NATO but Putin prevented that. Germany and France stood against that idea too, because of their economic background – the majority of European countries depend on Russian gas. In 2014, Russia invaded a part of Ukraine – Crimea, where the majority of the population were Russians. This was the start of constant conflicts between the two countries that escalated on the 24th of February this year. Putin strongly denies Ukraine becoming part of NATO and getting support from the West.

Choosing sides

Most of the world’s leading countries have stood up against Putin and his threats. But, some of them haven’t declared themselves on which side they are and some have confirmed their support for Russia.The background behind it is the weapon or support they got from Russia. For example, Iran is on the Russian side because Russia has supplied arms to Iran and has cooperated with it during the Syrian war. Serbia hasn’t declared itself fully but, because it isn’t a NATO member and Russia also does not recognize Kosovo’s independence, the country is perceived to be on the Russian side. The countries that were once part of the Soviet Union, including Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, stand by Russia. Cuba and North Korea are also on the Russian side. Due to the good alliance, India is neutral. The country that is the crucial factor in this conflict, China, still hasn’t fully declared itself. Now, let’s move on to countries that support Ukraine. All the NATO members (the United Kingdom, the United States, Croatia and many others) are on the Ukrainian side. Japan, South Korea and Australia are also supporting Ukraine. The problem is that Europe depends on Russia for about 40% of its natural gas supplies and Putin’s threats to tighten gas supplies to Europe. This has already caused a big increase in gas prices and will have long-term consequences on European as well as world economy.

Censorship in Russia

Putin justifies his actions by telling Russian citizens that his aim is to protect people who have been put through bullying and genocide in Ukraine due to the big number of Russians living there, calling Ukrainians neo-Nazis. He also banned almost all social platforms and formed a law to punish anyone who spreads “false information” about its Ukraine invasion with up to 15 years in prison.

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The war and the youth

With the situation in Ukraine actively evolving, the number of refugees that flee the country is increasing. This has a big impact on mental health, especially on kids that aren’t mature enough to understand the problem and cope with it. When schools in Ukraine were still open before attacks, children had to wear stickers identifying their blood types in case of bombings. They also had war lessons that aimed to prepare them for the worst. You can only imagine how hard it is to cope with that when you have a whole life in front of you.

UNHCR, the UN’s refugee agency, predicts that about 4 million people may attempt to flee Ukraine. All Ukrainian universities are closed. Many male students and teachers are taking arms and women are sheltering in the western part of the country or crossing the border to safe countries. Fortunately, educational institutions and universities all around the world are rallying together so they could support Ukrainian refugees and ensure that their education will continue. Except for temporal transfer, a lot of institutions are also offering free English language and cultural preparation courses for Ukrainian students.

How to help?

There are a lot of things you can do to help Ukrainians in small ways. If you have an opportunity, you can donate.

Some of the organizations that take donations to help Ukraine:

  1. People in Need
  2. Ukrainian Red Cross
  3. International Medical Corps
  5. UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency
  6. Save the Children
  7. World Health Organization Foundation

You can take action by joining Peace Protests that take place in big cities all over the world. Posting on social media to raise awareness of the situation is also a great thing you can do. You can use #StandWithUkraine so your story or post gets even more views. It is important to stay informed and catch up with news connected to the conflict. There are many portals with brave journalists and reporters that write about the current situation.

Here are some trustworthy portals that you can check:

  1. The Kyiv Independent https://kyivindependent.com/
  2. The New Voice of Ukraine https://english.nv.ua/
  3. Ukraine World https://ukraineworld.org/
  4. Kyiv Post https://www.kyivpost.com/

Written by Anja Martinez, IB student

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