Protestors stand at Lincoln Memorial in support of Ukraine. Photo courtesy of Victoria Pickering / Flickr
On Thursday, February 24, Russian forces began their invasion of Ukraine. The attack came just days after Russia claimed the Donetsk and Luhansk regions as independent and sent in Russian forces to hold them. The attacks have hit a wide range of locations across Ukraine, most notably the capital city of Kyiv which Russian President Vladimir Putin hopes to capture in order to weaken Ukraine’s government. The war has already seen high casualties, according to UNOCHA an estimated 142 civilians have been killed and 777,000 Ukrainians displaced by March 1.
Millersville University Professor Dr. Victoria Khiterer, a Ukrainian immigrant and expert on Eastern European history, spoke to The Snapper about the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Dr. Khiterer said the reason for the war is that Russia has claimed Ukraine “violated the rights of the Russian speaking population in Ukraine” and that “Putin claims that he needs to protect Russia from NATO.”
Dr. Khiterer noted that these are “all false claims of Putin and his government.” She emphasized the role of propaganda on the Russian people, saying “Russian propaganda brainwashed Russian people and soldiers.” Dr. Khiterer warned that Putin “will not stop in the Ukraine, he will continue to Baltic states and to Poland,. He is a potential danger for all the western democratic world.”
Ukrainian forces have been fighting back against Russia and have put up fierce resistance leaving Russian troops unable to make the progress they had hoped for. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has remained in Kyiv to continue advocating for support for Ukraine. President Zelenskyy has been critical of international support, pleading for more direct help for Ukraine.
“We’re defending our country alone. The most powerful forces in the world are watching this from a distance,” said Zelenskyy. “Who is ready to fight alongside us? I don’t see anyone.”
President Biden denounced the war in a national address Thursday afternoon just hours after the invasion began. “The Russian military has begun a brutal assault on the people of Ukraine without provocation, without justification, without necessity … Putin is the aggressor. Putin chose this war. And now he and his country will bear the consequences.”
The United States has responded to Russia’s aggression with a variety of sanctions targeted at Russian banks and oligarchs in order to cripple the Russian economy. The EU council has also announced the removal of Russian banks’ access to the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), which verifies international transactions, effectively cutting off Russia from the global economy. President Biden hopes these actions will convince Russia to end the war as their economy continues to suffer.
Concluding our interview, Dr. Khiterer left a message for Millersville Students seeing what is happening in Ukraine, stating it is “very important now to talk about Ukraine and very important that more people understand what is going on there and also start to support democracy in Europe and independence of Ukraine.”
Dr. Khiterer said Millersville students wishing to show their support can join protests in their areas or raise funds for the Ukrainian military and that even adding a Ukrainian flag to their social media profiles can help raise awareness for the crisis in Ukraine.
Our full video interview with Dr. Khiterer can be viewed HERE.