The impacts of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine are still being felt around the world.
Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, threatening the independence of 44 million residents. The United Nations say about 1.5 million refugees have fled the country, and as of March 6, thousands are believed to have been killed or injured through the conflict.
“I’m okay...as well as I can be,” said Kenora resident and proud former Ukrainian resident Lena, who asked Q104 to keep her last name private to help protect her family members still living in Ukraine.
“I have lots of anxiety. I’m scared and my anger is growing. I can’t understand how this is possible, to have war in the middle of Europe in the 21st century.”
Lena says she has teenage cousins separated from their parents in Kharkiv and friends and family in the capital of Kyiv. The two cities, both of Ukraine’s largest, have been under prolonged attacks since day one of the invasion. While many families initially escaped to Poland, many are coming back to fight for their country.
“A lot of my friends and relatives are in Ukraine. Most of them stayed. I’ve been in touch with my family and friends every day. I start my day by asking how their night went. They need the support. They need to know that people care. I just feel helpless from over here.”
Russian troops began closing on on the capital city of Kyiv on February 28. The 40-mile long armoured convoy is continuing to make its way towards the capital but is being slowed down by Ukrainian forces.
“My family is not able to leave. They’re currently in Russian-held territory. The only safe way out of the country is in the west, and my family is in eastern Ukraine,” explains Lena. “They also don’t want to move. This is their home. They just want to be left alone. But the forces that are against them are just immense.”
Moscow has said the invasion is a ‘special operation’ to destroy Ukraine’s military capabilities and to capture ‘dangerous nationalists.’ Russia repeatedly denied accusations from western nations that they were planning an invasion prior to February 24, after gathering about 150,000 troops near the Ukrainian border.
“My family and friends are scared. They live in basements and fear for their lives. Their houses are damaged or destroyed. The whole country’s in pieces. And Russia is calling it a special peacekeeping operation?” rhetorically asked Lena.
“As a person from Donbas I will tell you, we did not want them to ‘free us’. And for sure, we did not want the Russians to destroy the whole country in the process.”
Relations between the two countries have been hostile since 2014 since the invasion and annexation of Crimea. which is still considered to be part of Ukraine. Reports say the 8-year and ongoing conflict has led to at least 14,000 deaths since fighting with the Russian ‘separatists’, rebels backed and now officially recognized by the Russian government, began in 2014.
Ukraine is a country about the size of Texas, wedged between Russia, Europe and the Black Sea. It was part of the now-defunct Soviet Union until 1991. Meanwhile, the country of Russia is approximately 2,733 per cent larger than Ukraine.
“Help stop the bully that Putin is. Because if we don’t do it now, he will go further next time,” pleads Lena. “Russia is the largest country in the world. We can’t do it alone. We really need your support. Help stop this madness.”
After Russia’s initial invasion, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau quickly moved to impose a number of economic sanctions on Russia, which include financial penalties against individuals and entities and the halting of export permits.
Trudeau will be sending an additional 460 military personnel to the approximately 800 currently serving in Europe. He’s also authorized 3,400 Canadian Armed Forces members to be deployed to NATO’s Response Force, if they’re called in.
“It’s great to see the world standing up to put pressure on Russia. It’s overwhelming,” adds Lena. “We will rebuild this country eventually, but we need to stop this war first. We need people to continue to support us. It’s just overwhelming.”
“Please keep talking about this war. Put pressure on politicians and the government. The government of Canada has done so much already. I’m very grateful for it. Please keep that up. Keep showing your support.”
Ottawa is also offering up $100 million in humanitarian assistance to Ukraine residents, which includes emergency health services, protection, support for displaced populations, shelter, water, sanitation and food.
“Canada remains steadfast in its support for Ukraine,” said Kenora MP Eric Melillo, in an interview with the Q Morning Show.
“I’m proud to see we’ve had a united front from all parties supporting the government’s actions so far to sanction Russia. At the same time, we are proposing further measures, such as expelling the Russian ambassador, that the government can consider moving forward.”
Ontario is providing $300,000 in humanitarian aid to help provide medical services, emergency shelter and food supplies in Ukraine, provided through the Canada-Ukraine Foundation.
Ottawa has also said it will match all donations to the Canadian Red Cross dollar-for-dollar for a maximum of $10 million until March 18.
“I’d like to ask people to donate,” adds Lena. “Every little bit counts. People need food, basic necessities, generators to stay warm and charge their phones...to let their relatives know that they’re alive.”
Donations can be made below: