August 24, 2022 was a contradicting day for the nation of Ukraine. While it marked the day of independence from their Soviet rule and called for celebration, it also marked the six-month anniversary of the Russian invasion on Feb. 24, 2022. Since this date when Vladimir Putin announced a “special military operation” and proceeded to invade the Ukrainian border, the attack has continued and displaced millions of people.
Modern-day territorial conflict between Russia and Ukraine began in March 2014, when Putin annexed Crimea, a formerly Ukrainian piece of land on the border between the two countries. Despite taking over land that was not theirs, Russia faced very little opposition, especially from the western powers, possibly encouraging more conflict in the future. Since then Russia has shown signs of reviving its expansionist past, which became very clear on Feb. 24 of this year as Russian forces crossed over multiple borders and explosions were reported in both Kyiv and Kharkiv.
Since the initial attack, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky has rallied his country to fight back against Russia, as they quickly regained control over their capital, Kyiv, and pushed the Russians back. As the conflict continued over the summer, Russia never completely had control over any of the territories, but were still not completely defeated by Ukraine.
Throughout August and September, Ukraine has launched counteroffensives both on the southeastern border and the Donetsk region in the east. It was confirmed on Sep. 5, 2022 that they have resulted in Ukraine gaining two settlements as they continue to fight back for their land. Ukraine has received support from countries all over the world, especially the US and EU who have made sanctions against Russia in an attempt to strangle their economic power. They also have funded the Ukrainian armies and sent troops to locations near the conflict for backup. Since the first day of conflict Ukraine has seen major demographic changes, and according to the UN Refugee Agency, 6.6 million Ukrainians have been displaced with many fleeing to neighboring countries like Poland, Hungary and Moldova.
Over the summer, the conflict was in headlines again because fighting near the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant raised global fears of a nuclear accident. When shelling neared the plant and caused explosions, scientists believed that the reaction could cause radioactive material to spread through Europe if the warfare was not stopped.
Despite the United States and many other countries calling for a demilitarized zone around the plant, the fighting and shelling continued with both sides blaming each other for the damage. While no harm was done, this event shows how nuclear power could be a pressing issue in the future. In addition, other dramatic fighting stories, such as the massacre in Mariupol and the destruction to the Donetsk Theater, show how brutal the war continues to be.
Freshman Angelika Avdyeyeva has a close and personal connection to the conflict, as her grandmother has lived in Ukraine her whole life. “My grandmother can’t make it over to the United States because she does not have the correct vaccination pass,” she said. “My mom calls her every day because with all of the attacks and uncertainty, she needs to constantly check in to see if she is okay.” Avdyeyeva talks to her grandmother frequently, and has even visited Ukraine when she was younger. She says that as the situation both in her grandmother’s town and country overall improve, she is hopeful for her grandmother and hopes to be able to see her in person soon.
Although the world’s interest in the conflict has diminished as the duration has increased, it still is altering the life of many Ukrainians and leaving them hoping for it to end soon.