February 24 will mark the first Anniversary of Russia’s unprovoked, atrociously brutal and genocidal full-scale war upon Ukraine. When the hostilities first began on that fateful day a year ago, very few people around the world thought it would last this long. It was supposed to be over in a few days. The Armed Forces of the Russian Federation (AFRF) were supposed to be the second best in the world – vastly outnumbering the Ukrainians. Their supply of weapons appeared to be limitless. Their defence budget was ten times that of Ukraine.
But the fearsome bear turned out to be a paper tiger. Much of the money allocated for defense was stolen by corrupt leaders. Fully expecting a walkover, Russian commanders supplied their soldiers with parade uniforms, at the expense of basic necessities. Most of the soldiers sent to the battlefield were untrained and unprepared. The invasion bogged down.
But the biggest surprise of all was the resilience of the Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF). They not only held the line after Russia’s initial advances but began to push back. This may have been a surprise to most of the world but not to the people of Ukraine. Friends and relatives we spoke to in the first few days of the invasion expressed full confidence in their armed forces and full confidence in their ultimate victory. It was not false bravado either. Just a quiet sense of determination.
But surprise the world they did. Under Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces General Valerii Zaluzhnyi and Commander of the Ground Forces Colonel General Oleksandr Syrskyi, they stopped the Russians dead in their tracks during the Battle of Kyiv, February 25 to April 2, forcing them to withdrew not just from Kyiv oblast, but from all of Northern Ukraine West of Kharkiv. International media outlets reported jubilation among the civilian population in the capital and other areas from which the Russians retreated. Celebration gave way to outrage though, as evidence of Russian atrocities in places like Bucha emerged. The victory at Kyiv gave way to successful counter offensives at both Kharkiv and Kherson, regaining over 2,000 square kilometres of occupied territory.
The other big surprise was Ukraine’s embattled President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Dismissed at one point as a comedian-turned-politician, he emerged as a valiant wartime leader reminiscent of Sir Winston Churchill during World War II. Offered an escort to safety by the United States, Zelenskyy boldly declared “I don’t need a ride. I need ammunition”. He then proceeded to lobby Western leaders for these weapons, addressing them virtually and occasionally in person. Like another former actor-turned-president, Ronald Reagan, Zelenskyy displayed a very acute sense of media savvy. Dressed in his trademark olive green fatigues with a small tryzub just below the neck, as opposed to an ostentatious bemedaled uniform favoured by many military leaders, Zelenskyy projected the image of a common foot soldier, sharing the burden with his troops and rousing them to action.
His true grit and inspirational leadership has galvanized his own nation and earned the lasting respect of Western democracies. It has prompted them to respond to his call for arms much more generously than they initially intended. He has made the world believe that a Ukrainian victory is not only possible, but essential if one is to stop nuclear armed dictators from destroying world security. He has become a true David battling a rapacious Goliath. U.S. President Joe Biden has even compared Ukraine’s struggle against Russia to the Jewish Maccabees’ uprising against the Roman Empire – a struggle that is commemorated every year as Hannukah – the Festival of Lights.
But the year-long struggle has exacted an enormous toll upon the population of Ukraine. Faced with massive losses on the battlefield, Russian dictator Vladimir Putin has resorted to indiscriminate bombing of civilian buildings, schools, hospitals, power stations, infrastructure – all with the aim of terrorizing the civilian population into surrender. He also hopes that by extending this war of attrition he will ultimately succeed either in cowing the population of Ukraine or wearing down Western support for Ukraine. And he doesn’t care how many of his own citizens he sends to their death. Human life has no meaning for Putin and his minions. Wounded soldiers are left on the field for the Ukrainians to take care of them. Dead bodies are left to rot on the battlefield and get eaten by parasites. But, to Ukrainians a war of attrition poses the greatest danger because it will cost hundreds of thousands more lives and more suffering.
It sometimes seems that the West is willing to support Ukraine enough to keep Russia at bay, but not enough to drive the marauding hordes back behind their borders. That only serves to prolong the agony for the people of Ukraine and cause more unnecessary deaths.
Freedom-loving people around the world must not allow this conflict to still be raging by February 24 of next year. Ukraine must be given all the resources it needs to drive the Russians back to their own borders and score a decisive victory.
Such a victory is necessary not only for Ukraine, but for the entire free world as Ukrainians continue to sacrifice their lives to contain the Russian imperialist disease from spreading any further. February 24 has been declared a day of prayers for peace in Ukraine. Pray for peace, pray for those who have lost their lives, pray for the resilience of the Ukrainian nation and pray for the triumph of good over evil. And let this victory come as soon as possible.