BY JONATHAN CORTEZ
Right now I want you to imagine a country. Imagine that country coming here to the US, sending troops, police and politicians. Imagine this country demanding that you are now a part of their country. Imagine war in your neighborhoods, protesters hurling molotov cocktails at police, militias fighting long after the sun sets below the horizon. All of this is currently going on within Ukraine as you read this paper. Here’s the Russian-Ukraine conflict boiled down.
Before you try to understand the Russia-Ukraine conflict, there’s a lot of important historical context to understand, which leads to this conflict. The first fact to understand is Ukraine’s past relations with Russia. Ukraine used to be a part of the USSR (Union of Social Soviet Republic) from 1922 to 1991. During this time, Ukraine was hit with one of the most devastating famines known to man, “Holodomor”. Like most states belonging to the soviet Union, Ukraine was under Stalin’s totalitarian rule.
Whether it was secret police, famine, lack of free speech, Ukraine faced it all and like many other European and Scandinavian countries, they were happy to have independence. However, that recently changed in 2014 when Russia annexed the Ukrainian peninsula. Many Ukrainian citizens were upset with their independence being taken away. Since then, Ukraine has been filled with riots and protests. Molotovs, bricks, and tear gas filled the streets of Ukraine in 2014 and still fills the streets today. Along with constant violence, Russian police have made many attempts at silencing media which supports Ukrainian independence.
Oleg Sentsov was an Ukrainian independent film maker who was arrested on charges of plotting terrorism and sentenced to 22 years in prison. He was just recently released as of September 7th this year. Other Ukrainian activists who have been unjustly arrested are Iryna Dovhan, who was kidnapped by pro-Russian activists along with being beaten and humiliated, and Esont Kohver under false charges of espionage. This detaining of activists and citizens only drove Ukrainian activism even further. Even though the current war zone only makes up a tiny fraction of Ukraine, it has a drastic effect. Many continue to protest as Russia makes constant advancement in Ukraine. Recently, Russian president Vladimir Putin granted dual citizenship passports to Russian citizens. Ukraine does not allow dual citizenship and Russia’s passing of this only continues to rile up the Citizens of Ukraine.
As a citizen of the U.S., I can’t imagine this happening here. It’s difficult to imagine foreign soldiers coming here and setting up whatever laws they want. This is why we should all be aware of Ukraine’s current state. Many citizens here take our freedom and rights for granted. All though yes, no country is perfect (ours included), it’s important we look outside our borders to see the real world and all that’s going on within it. The truth is, some people don’t know how bad things truly are.
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