Russia and Ukraine: A Tragedy in Context

Ryan Tiedemann, Staff Writer

On Feb. 20, 2014, the Russian Federation, under President Vladimir Putin, invaded and annexed the Ukrainian territory of Crimea. Eight years later, on Feb. 24, 2022, the very same Russian Federation, under the very same President, invaded the entire nation of Ukraine. This invasion is still ongoing as of May 12, though cracks have begun to appear in the Russian war machine. 

On April 2, 2022, Putin released a statement regarding a “partial” Russian withdrawal from Ukraine. This was not a bluff; Moscow’s forces withdrew from Kyiv’s suburbs and various other Ukrainian territories, with the invaded nation’s soldiers advancing wearily. However, Russia has no plans of entirely returning their annexations, nor do they plan on halting the conflict, which has continued raging in the east. However, this withdrawal provides a moment in time to assess the conflict thus far, particularly its human impact.

While recapturing territory as Russians retreated, Ukrainian forces discovered sites of unimaginable tragedy: mass civilian graves. Furthermore, the Human Rights Watch has alleged, with photographic and first-person evidence, several other cases of war crimes committed by Russian forces; this laundry list includes threats, looting, rape, civilian violence and execution. As a result many members of the international community, including U.S. President Joe Biden, have expressed their desire to try Putin for war crimes. The U.S. president was specifically filmed saying “He (Putin) is a war criminal.”

However, geopolitical analyses and speculation can only take this discussion so far. A perspective must be established. The population of our school, Dulaney High School, is 1,859 students. NATO has estimated that between 7,000 and 15,000 Russian soldiers have been killed in this conflict. An additional 2,500 civilians, over 1,000 Ukrainian soldiers and countless volunteers and workers have also perished. Therefore, a reasonable but admittedly low estimate of the total casualties for both sides is 15,000, as there remains an incredible number of lives lost that have yet to be counted.

However, this is a hard number to quantify. For that reason, please imagine, for a moment, that eight people are sitting beside you and beside every other person in Dulaney. Those eight people, each with their own lives, hopes, and passions, are now gone, slaughtered in senseless violence. There are enough ghosts from this war alone to octuple the student population, and many more left uncounted. So please, although the world moves quickly and this conflict is taking place across the earth, do not forget these people. Recognize their ghosts when you see numbers and estimates appear on screens, when you hear stories of catastrophe. Recognize them when future war crimes are committed.