KYIV, Ukraine, Thurs. Feb. 24, 2022– Russia has begun its attack on Ukraine, and is currently targeting military infrastructure in the first phase of its offensive, as part of what Vladimir Putin has called an effort to “demilitarize” certain sections of the country. The full-blown invasion—the largest show of force seen in Europe since World War II—included the storming of over 150,000 troops along with Russian tanks, across Ukrainian borders from the east, north and south along with the launching of airstrikes near major cities, including the capital of Kyiv, at dawn on Thursday. According to reports, this first strike has already left numerous Ukrainian soldiers and at least ten civilians dead. Dozens more have been wounded, and as a result, thousands of residents have been fleeing for their lives, and many of the country’s roads are in gridlock. Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy has declared martial law, calling the invasion a declaration of war against all of Europe. In an address broadcasted prior to Russia’s attack, President Zelenskyy pleaded with Putin for peace, but that plea fell on deaf ears.
“As of today, our countries are on different sides of world history. Russia has embarked on a path of evil, but Ukraine is defending itself and won’t give up its freedom,” he tweeted. According to Zelenskyy, Ukrainian defenders gave their lives to thwart the attempts of Russian occupation forces to seize the Chernobyl nuclear power plant—a battle ultimately lost, as the military seized the plant in a matter of hours, holding its workers hostage.
Europe’s long-lasting state of peace was shattered in just one day, but the tensions between Russia and Ukraine have been mounting for months now. In December 2021, just a few weeks after satellite imagery showed troops gathering at the Ukraine border, Russia issued several detailed demands to the West. The most prominent of those demands was that Western officials were to provide a legal written pledge that Ukraine and Georgia—both former Soviet republics—would not join NATO. The uncompromising West, however, rejected those demands, and instead, in January of this year, U.S president Joe Biden reassured the Ukrainian president that the U.S would “respond decisively” if Russia were to invade. Later that month, the U.S put 8,500 soldiers on alert while other Western nations began evacuating staff from embassies in Kyiv. And by the beginning of February, the U.S and its allies, such as the U.K, had begun alerting the public of the threat of war. According to CNBC, analysts have suggested that Putin knew his demands would have been rejected, but that making the demands enabled him to say that the West had ignored Russia’s security concerns, thus allowing him to blame Ukraine and the West for increased tensions.
Ahead of the attack, Putin also stated that the invasion was being carried out in an effort to protect the citizens of Eastern Ukraine. The Russian president, who has formally recognized the independence of Ukraine’s pro-Russian breakaway regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, declared that the purpose of sending in his army was to “protect” the two self-proclaimed republics and to keep the peace in the East. This, however, is illegal. Not only do Putin’s actions infringe on the territorial integrity of Ukraine, as explained by Kenyan UN Representative Martin Kimani, but those actions also breach international law, which dictates that peacekeeping missions must follow specific protocols that are in place—none of which involve the invasion of a country.
In less than 24 hours, the effects of the full-scale attack on Ukraine have already rippled across Europe and the globe, including in the global financial markets. Stocks have plummeted, and the cost of crude oil has risen to over $100 per barrel for the first time since 2014—a change that will most certainly be reflected in the already steadily rising fuel pump prices both in Belize and around the world. As time passes, the ramifications could prove even worse, with Russia being one of the world’s largest foreign-oil suppliers and with Ukraine being a major exporter of grain and raw materials. Inflation rates have been soaring since the start of the pandemic, but an all-out war can, and will, send those rates even higher—something that can ultimately result in political upheaval in countries already feeling the pinch of increased costs of living. At the end of it all, ordinary Ukrainians, and ordinary folk from across the globe, are the ones who will suffer the most.
This Tuesday, President Biden issued the first tranche of sanctions against Russia, cutting the country off from financial support by the West. Those sanctions have only increased since Thursday, with Japan, the EU, the U.K, and Australia joining in as well. Condemnation from the international community has also increased. On Tuesday, the Government of Belize Press Office issued a statement on the attack, “roundly condemning Russia’s unjustified and unprovoked attack on Ukraine” and expressing that Belize stands in solidarity with the Ukrainian people who are enduring the horrors of war.
“Belize is resolute that all states must respect and adhere to norms and principles of international law which are fundamental to the maintenance of the international system and peace and security, including respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity within internationally recognized borders, non-interference in the internal affairs of another state, and the prohibition on the threat or use of force and peaceful resolution of disputes,” stated the press release.
Vladimir Putin has responded to condemnation from global leaders and mounting sanctions with hostility, threatening anyone wishing to meddle with “consequences you have never faced in your history” and making reference to Russia’s arsenal of nuclear weaponry.