After years of increasing tensions, Russia has invaded Ukraine.
Amid the aggression, Phoenix Media Co-op spoke to a Ukrainian civilian to amplify her perspective.
Moscow has officially recognised the separatist Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic and pledged to support them. These regions of heavy industry, called Donbas, mostly speak Russian. And they have become increasingly independent from Ukraine’s capital Kiev since 2014, despite strong opposition from the national government. Russia says a key factor behind its invasion was to end crimes against Donbas. Over 14,000 people died as a result of the Donbas conflict.
In 2014, a Western-backed coup saw a neoliberal-ultranationalist alliance overthrow the Ukrainian government. The new regime showed hostility towards Russian speakers in the country’s eastern regions. And the country’s far right grew in power, and the neo-Nazi Azov Movement in particular, with Western complicity. These forces actively opposed attempts at peace. Moscow, meanwhile, occupied the majority-Russian-speaking Crimean peninsula, committing human rights violations in the process.
This coup happened in a context of NATO expansion eastwards despite alleged promises to the contrary at the end of the Cold War. And both before and after, the US had withdrawn from important arms treaties with Russia. The US and UK, meanwhile, continued their significant military presence around the world. Ukraine has also expressed its desire to enter NATO, something Russia staunchly opposes.
Ukrainian civilian: “I want to live in peace”
Phoenix Media Co-op spoke to a concerned civilian from Ukraine to hear her perspective. She grew up in Donbas and speaks Russian. But she currently lives in Kiev and is saddened by the Russian invasion. She described “hearing the noise” of fighting on 24 February, stressing it was “difficult to believe”. And she said the attacks were part of a “childish power game”, noting how Russia has even planted its flags in certain areas. She insisted: “I want to live in peace. I want to be close to others, not just Russia.” She is particularly worried about the impact the conflict may have on nearby nuclear power stations.
She left the orange industrial skies of Donbas behind in 2014, looking for better job opportunities in Kiev. And she says it opened her mind. Previously, she had hated the Ukrainian language, but this soon changed as she met new people and made friends. She described some tensions with Western Ukrainians, who were hostile to people who spoke Russian, but she generally felt welcome in the capital. She feels sad about the tensions with her family, though. Her mother, for example, supports Russia; and she has told her that Moscow just “wants to save” her. That’s not her own impression, though.
“I’ve packed my suitcase,” she says, “and I may have to go and sleep in the subway.”