Credit: Yehor Milohrodskyi (Unsplash)

The War in Ukraine: Two years later

By Mahi Singh

Two years ago, on 24 February 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine, plunging the region into a war that has sparked diplomatic tensions, mass migration, and the massacre of thousands. So how has Russia’s territorial dispute with Ukraine come to this point, and is there any sign of resolution?

Since 2022, Ukraine has been subject to drone strikes, massacres, and the destruction of homes and businesses. Despite this, the resilience of the Ukrainian people under the leadership of President Zelensky has thwarted Russia’s hopes of an easy invasion. The defence of its capital, Kyiv, has been a crucial political triumph. By the end of 2022, Ukraine struck severe blows, particularly in forcing the retreat of Russian forces from the key port city of Kherson. However, the territory regained by Ukraine through military breakthroughs is desolate, and a progressive shift in narrative has begun as Ukraine has suffered massive losses. With over 6.3 million refugees worldwide according to the UNHCR and troops becoming outnumbered and running low on weapons, Western support has become even more indispensable for Ukraine.

Throughout the past two-years, Russia has continued to attempt to justify its historical and territorial claims over Ukraine. What the Kremlin’s justification relies on is the ethnic connection between Russians and Ukrainians, reasoning that their collective identity means Ukrainians and Russians are one, endangering Ukraine’s right to sovereignty. In March 2024, Dmitry Medvedev of Russia’s Security Council proclaimed, “Ukraine is definitely Russia,” thereby rejecting Ukraine’s right to self-determination. 

Russia’s power and influence in international organisations has further facilitated its invasion, allowing them to violate various peace treaties. Russia has also benefited greatly from relationships with allies such as Iran and North Korea through the receiving of arms and weapons, allowing them to capture strongpoints like Kharkiv and Avdiivka and continue airstrikes in the Donetsk oblast. Unsurprisingly, Russia is considerably more powerful at the moment – politically, economically, and militarily – and is prepared to exhaust Ukrainian defences. Many analysts predict the war to end in a stalemate, given that the Kremlin is unlikely to accept any situation that does not result in a Russian victory.

In response, since 2022, 39 countries have (economically) targeted over 16,000 oligarchs and companies in Russia, making it the world’s most sanctioned country. Travel bans and asset freezes imposed on bureaucrats and high-ranking officials has also led to a 2.1% downturn in the Russian economy in 2022. However, Russia’s ‘war economy’ made a turnaround in 2023, increasing by 3.6% and surpassing all members of the G7. Although this growth is unlikely to sustain in the long-run, strategic partnerships with India and China – that account for 90% of Russian oil exports – are a lifeline for the economy.

The support and involvement of the West has further fuelled Russia’s antagonism. The division between pro-Ukraine and pro-Russian states has escalated tensions and increased the possibility of triggering a more widespread international conflict. In June 2024, French President Macron said he wanted to “finalize” a “coalition of countries that will send military trainers to Ukraine”. This claim, that Macron first made in February 2024, provoked a warning from the Kremlin of a “direct conflict with the Russian Federation and escalation of the situation.” Repeatedly, Putin has threatened a nuclear war against the West and NATO, causing states including UK and the US to refuse direct involvement in the war.

To hear what Ukrainian students have to say, the Glasgow Guardian spoke to members of the Ukrainian Society at UofG. One student, Kateryna Antonenko, discussed how they felt. “There is a feeling that two camps have formed: “I support Ukraine” and “I do not support Ukraine” (fortunately, there is no clear “support Russia” camp).” Kateryna told the Glasgow Guardian how she felt that “ Belonging to a camp says a lot about a person’s identity, priorities, values, and views. For the last 2 years, Russia has been diligently trying to persuade people to ‘not support Ukraine’ and has had some success.”

In relation to the upcoming US election, Kateryna said: “Although Europeans and Americans sympathise with Ukrainians, others are particularly concerned about spending money on Ukraine. This is happening not only because of the influence of Russia’s powerful foreign propaganda, but also because one of the discourses surrounding the presidential race is the issue of Ukraine.” 

As to the reason why media coverage surrounding Ukraine has declined, Kateryna believed there were a few reasons: “First of all, it is clear that people get used to everything, even tragedies. The war in Ukraine has become a routine event. Second, it is hard for people to remember the severity of the war when there are so many Ukrainian refugees who seem great. Third, it is questionable whether a person can feel this severity without experiencing it.”

Another student, Svitlana Pokliatska, felt similarly as they discussed how “over the past 2 years, as the war in Ukraine has prolonged, the media has shifted its coverage style of the war. Consequently, among the general public, this conflict isn’t perceived as important, dreadful, or dangerous as it was at the beginning. Now it’s happening somewhere far away. War has become normalised.” 

As tensions are only continuing to develop on the international stage, such as the Israeli invasion of Gaza following 7 October 2023, Kateryna voiced how they believed that these ‘new conflicts have started to overshadow the war in the information sphere and also depreciate the ongoing losses and traumas inflicted on Ukraine and its people. She continued by saying: “As attention has shifted away from Ukraine, addressing the issue has disappeared from the public sphere and remains solely in the realm of politics.”

Speaking in response to the upcoming US elections, Kateryna believed that: ‘For the new elite and emerging right-wing agrarian and radical movements in American and European countries, support for Ukraine has transformed from a political imperative into a way to gain extra points in the local conservative arena.’ However, as the war in Ukraine continues, Kateryna said: “[while] we continue to receive assistance from Western countries, obtaining the necessary financial and military support becomes increasingly difficult. Not because the money isn’t there, but precisely due to political fluctuations in allied countries.”As the invasion of Ukraine continues, analysts believe that Russia’s position may foreshadow their future dominance in the region. As the political climate in Eastern Europe remains fragile, with Putin making both friends and foes, a decision to target other former Soviet states is not inconceivable. While Belarus has become subject to EU sanctions following their ‘involvement’ in Russia’s full-scale invasion, Poland and Romania strongly support Ukraine’s accession to the EU. Russia’s show of power has also prompted states like Lithuania and Estonia to reconsider their position on NATO accession to avoid similar invasions. Looking ahead, the war in Ukraine serves as a reminder of the sovereign disputes that can transgress a country’s borders, representing a struggle for sovereignty and self-determination in a country with such a complex relationship with its history and neighbouring states. However, one thing is for certain. Beyond the humanitarian crisis, the outcome of the war will profoundly shape the future and security of Europe.


Share this story

Follow us online

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments