Sunday, April 14, 2024
HomeOpinionHere's what Ukrainians face from Putin if we don't send critical military...

Here’s what Ukrainians face from Putin if we don’t send critical military aid

A Sunday headline says it all as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine enters its third year: “Russia Starts Issuing Citizenship to Surviving Avdiivka Residents,” Newsweek reported.

As Ukraine has been forced to ration dwindling ammunition, Moscow took the Donetsk city last week — what was it left of it, anyway.

As soon as I saw the headline, I knew exactly what it meant because I’d seen such devastation myself in the weeks I spent in Ukraine last year.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer took a group of Democratic colleagues to the country Friday, ahead of Saturday’s two-year anniversary.

The New York Times reports they “met in Lviv with [President Volodymyr] Zelensky, his newly appointed military commander, Oleksandr Syrsky, and American embassy officials,” collecting “on-the-ground evidence of Ukraine’s wartime needs.”

Schumer challenged House Speaker Mike Johnson, who’s so far refused to allow a vote on a Senate-passed aid bill, to make the same trip.

I echo Schumer’s call — except lawmakers should do more than meet with Ukrainian and American officials in a well-appointed room in Ukraine’s west.

President Biden and other Democrats have done a terrible job of making the case for more and better Ukraine aid to the American people.

Platitudes and photo ops are not enough.

Leaders who support saving the West — and that’s what’s at stake here — must explain to Americans what Ukrainians face if we give up on them and say Putin can take what he likes of their country.

Start with one of the locations the war started — and where Ukrainians realized they might actually not lose.

More coverage on the Ukraine war

Putin thought it would be a cakewalk to grab Kyiv, the capital, and install a puppet government. His troops took the suburbs of Irpin and Bucha and massacred civilians and prisoners of war.

Those who survived will tell you some horror stories — though no one likes to talk about the mass rapes.

There were no military targets here; Russians bombed and looted people’s homes.

Irpin’s destroyed bridge houses something of an art installation now: a baby stroller to remind visitors of an infant and mother killed as they tried to escape.

Some American “leaders” and pundits insist Ukrainians and Russians are essentially the same. The renaissance of Ukrainian folk culture — along with history — puts paid to that.

But such anti-aid folks ignore the fact Ukrainians have fought for their freedom and aren’t interested in living under a dictatorship that Russians haven’t overthrown.

(They might think about the United States and Canada some centuries ago.)

What will Ukrainian life be like if Putin wins — whether on the battlefield or through some sort of imposed negotiated settlement?

Talk to those who have lived under Russian occupation to find out.

With a Ukrainian, her American boyfriend, and a car they’d borrowed to take me, we spent a day driving to and from a town south of Kyiv to talk to a family who’d escaped a village a few miles upstream of the Kakhovka Dam, which the Russians destroyed.

They had so little — the couple were foster parents of a mighty handful of cute cherubim and had just learned the house they left behind was demolished — but offered a bounty of food and drink to the guests who’d come to ask them to relive painful memories.

They lived under Russian occupation for weeks.

The children told me they wet the bed every night, they were so frightened.

They were lucky to make their escape — at one of the dozens of Russian checkpoints they crossed, soldiers made the father strip and held a gun to his head as the terrified children watched from the car.

Kharkiv, a center of learning just 25 miles from Russia, was so devastated, it took my breath away.

The Russians almost captured it — tanks entered the city center — but its brave citizens, most of whom spoke Russian before that invasion, fought them off.

Moscow bombed government buildings, universities and residential apartments — and still does.

From there, a leader might take a trip to Donbas, which has seen some of the worst fighting.

Driving to deliver privately fundraised military equipment — Ukraine appreciates crucial US military aid, but everyone does what they can — I saw entire cities leveled.

Even a once-glorious monastery wasn’t spared.

A couple from Izium discussed life under Russia too.

As the wife packed up scores of meat-filled pirozhki she’d baked for the soldiers, her husband animatedly related the everyday indignities of occupation, where one sour word could get a man shot.

The Russians aren’t interested in capturing a country but laying waste to it.

It took four months for Moscow to capture Avdiivka, but it’s already using its position there to further advance, with Ukrainian troops pulling out of nearby villages.

Who knows what awaits the civilians who survived?

They could still be free, if only America would have acted.

“It could be under the control of Ukrainian armed forces if we would have received long-range artillery, artillery in general, long-range 155s and other kits on time,” Maria Mezentseva laments to me by phone.

The member of parliament from Kharkiv had visited the city many times in the last two years.

“We’re thankful to the people of America for supporting us and regardless of the internal fights, which are linked to the coming elections,” she says, feeling confident America will do the right thing.

If any US leaders are unsure what that is, there are millions of Ukrainians who can explain it to them — vividly.

Kelly Jane Torrance is The Post’s op-ed editor.

This story originally appeared on NYPost

- Advertisment -

Most Popular

Recent Comments