The Russian invasion of Ukraine continues in all of its horrors, with Russia escalating attacks on civilian targets. So, who is on the ground?
Stories of bravery abound in Ukraine where many civilians are fighting alongside the military to defend their nation from Russian control. Regular people have stood in front of tanks. A soldier sacrificed himself to destroy a bridge to prevent Russian advance. An 80-year-old grandpa tried to enlist to fight “for his grandchildren.”
The Ukrainian defense has grown to 220,000 active-duty soldiers and tens of thousands of National Guard troops, police, reservists, and civilian volunteers. That number doesn’t come close to Russia’s million-strong military, but as of February 27, Ukraine’s Defense Ministry says the count of Russian losses includes 27 airplanes, 26 helicopters, 146 tanks, 706 battle armored cars, and 4,300 soldiers.
There is evidence that at least some of those Russian soldiers were lied to. A viral video shows captured Russian soldiers who say they were told to go to Ukraine for training exercises.
President Putin runs his country on disinformation, so it’s hard to tell what the Russian people know. They must know something, though, because over 5,000 citizens have been arrested for protesting the war. Oligarchs and politicians are speaking out too, calling for an end to the invasion. While they aren’t being gunned down or forced to leave their homes, they are getting hit by sanctions, which could lead to poverty and starvation if Putin drags this out. While Putin defends his dream of reuniting the USSR, his people will inevitably suffer too.
Countries around the world have told their citizens to leave Ukraine, but foreign students are reportedly having a hard time. Many African and Indian students are being stopped at checkpoints, ordered off buses to the border, and facing racism and segregation due to a Ukrainians-first policy.
Many think that Putin does not have a chance of succeeding in this war, but he also can’t leave now without looking like he lost. Russians, Ukrainians, and beyond are terrified about what the world will look like if and when Putin finally admits defeat. That’s a big if.