Ukraine Is On Its Own – But The True Victims Are Everyday People

The conflict has lasted more than 8 years claiming 14,000 lives.

The background to conflict in Ukraine is a historically difficult relationship and there has been a great deal of coverage regarding current tensions. But present framing is counterproductive to who the real victims are here – everyday people. There is a problem with our narrative of the crisis in that there is too much exposure of the military on both sides without documentation of the stress civilians face.

Gaining independence in 1991, Ukraine in a sense is relatively new to the idea and process of governing itself having been ruled indirectly by Moscow for years. The Kremlin’s power is wide-ranging and its influence is systemically powerful in the minds of all former Soviet Nations.

Donbas resident Irina stands in what was once her home.

Indicators for an invasion by Russia are there. From more than 100,000 troops on the border, fleets of naval vessels cordoning off the Black Sea to drills conducted in both Belarus and on the Ukrainian border. More alarming are the numbers and the fact Russia claims it has ‘optimised’ staff at its Kyiv embassy (meaning they have evacuated too). One interesting observation, is that the People’s Republic of China are yet to send a withdrawal order to their diplomatic mission and embassy in Kyiv. When this happens, assume Russia will make its move shortly thereafter.

Ukrainians remain focused on daily duties, dedicated to life and family despite the looming threat, with many vigilant, but hopeful. Some have packed ‘go-bags’ and have stocked extra fuel should the need to flee occur.

Kharkiv residents learn how to operate firearms at a school just outside the city centre.

Countermeasures to the crisis include a widescale western PR campaign meant to paint Russia as a toxic entity with little more to offer than fear and conflict. This might deter an invasion, though, on the other hand, could work to Russia’s advantage should London and Washington’s intel that Moscow is planning a false-flag attack to tinder conflict turn out to be true. Either way should conflict arise, sanctions on Moscow will surely weaken Russia’s economy with the potential to awaken further battle-cry rhetoric. Historically, conflicts are grounded in economic uncertainty with Hitler’s motivations being the barometer in modern times.

A kindergarten in Ukrainian controlled Mary’inka destroyed by separatist rocket fire.

Western perspective is late to the table with misstatements regarding the situation. MP Tobias Elwood for example told reporters Ukraine’s defence are barely a force having been ‘unable to retake the Luhansk region.’ Both Luhansk and Donetsk regions are occupied. Ukraine’s government stated that advancements on the territory would be seen as a provocation by Russia with fears Moscow could retaliate. Other assumptions that Crimea and Donbas are ‘contested’ (as described by Sky News) are wrong. The region is under occupation.

Why is Russia doing this?

No one knows for sure. But Putin is getting older, needs to leave his mark and intends to insert himself into history with a last chance to assert dominance. Over the years NATO strategically positioned itself around Europe to combat threats from Moscow, which Putin sees as an operation to quell his power.

But let’s get one thing straight – superpowers rarely go to war with a country of equal strength (remember Syria? which Russia effectively chased the United States out of), and when they do, it is characteristically in the form of hybrid conflicts such as the Donbas war. This leaves Ukraine largely on its own.

A local resident who wishes to remain anonymous showcases the entry point of a bullet through her living room wall where she and her family continue to live.

With more than 14,000 dead and little aid delivered to Kyiv except for military hardware, the war between Ukraine and Russia could signal ruin for the global order and rock not just Ukraine, but the world. But the reality is – Ukraine is on its own. No nation will seek to jeopardize its security with another nuclear power such as Russia. Especially one that has proven time and time again that it simply does not care what you think or do.

Incursions and disruptions have been ongoing for years, including bomb plots foiled by the Ukrainian intelligence agency (SBU), the Donbas war and propaganda campaigns, but nothing permeates worse than open ware fare.

Even though it is relatively unlikely anyone will use nuclear conflict again, the psychological effects of propaganda, loss and death are just as bad if not worse on the psyche of people. Victims of war often pass down their experiences through values, mannerisms and prejudices based on their lived experiences and last far longer than residual radiation in the form of trauma.

Photography: Ty Faruki

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