Confused About Russia and Ukraine? Here’s What You Need To Know


Leah Beyer, Staff Writer

We all roughly know what’s going on in Ukraine right now. But how much do you really know about why-and how-this is happening?

Vladimir Putin, the President of Russia, gave an hour-long speech on Monday, February 21st, explaining why he was justified to amass troops near Ukrainian borders.

In his speech, Putin gave his version of a history lesson on how Ukraine came to be, and how (in his mind) Ukraine still belongs to Russia. 

Here’s a brief history of Ukraine and its independence. The area that is now Ukraine used to be a part of Russia, as explained in’s article. The people in the area first declared their independence in January 1918 and then lost their independence in 1922 to the Soviet Union. This was because Ukraine was struggling to keep a real government system amid Russian, German, Austrian, and Polish troops were conflicting in the area and with each other. Ukraine declared independence again in 1991 and took steps to create their own military and governing force shortly before the U.S.S.R. officially disbanded.

Michael Barbaro, the host for the New York Times ‘The Daily’ podcast, and Anton Troianovski, the Moscow bureau chief for The New York Times, explained what Putin meant in his speech, and what it meant for Ukraine (at that point in time).

Putin’s history lesson as he told in his speech differs from reality. Putin claimed Russia has the right to recapture Ukraine because the land was given to the Ukrainians by the U.S.S.R. when it was still in operation. Troianovski says, “[Putin] sees himself, and what he’s doing now, righting a historical wrong…that goes back essentially more than a century.” Michael Barbaro adds, “Putin is…faulting previous Russian leaders for decisions they made that gave Ukraine a national identity, which clearly Putin thinks was a mistake to ever have done.” Putin seems to genuinely believe he is in the right and justified to attack Ukraine.

Putin also states that Ukraine’s efforts to join NATO is a security threat for Russia, as a NATO country would then share a border with Russia. He voiced concerns that American missiles stored in Ukraine through NATO agreements could reach the Russian capitol of Moscow in anywhere from 35 to as low as 5 minutes, posing a security threat for Russia.

In an effort to gather as many forces as possible, the Ukrainian Government has enacted martial law, requiring men from 18-60 to stay in Ukraine and Kiev and fight. Women and children are allowed to flee the country, causing the “worst refugee crisis since world war II” with around two-point-eight million refugees pouring out of Ukraine, half of which have been documented to be children. People are evacuating on buses, or take personal vehicles to cross borders. There were talks and agreements for a cease fire to safely evacuate civilians, “but the planned evacuation of civilians from Mariupol failed because Russian troops fired on a Ukrainian convoy carrying humanitarian cargo to the city that was later going to ferry people out,” according to AP News. AP News also reported that, “civilians in Mariupol, a city of roughly 430,000 people, have been without water, heat, sanitary systems and phone service for several days, and many have turned to breaking into shops.” They also wrote that, “bodies lay uncollected in the streets,” of Mariupol.

The New York Times interviewed a young man who chose to stay and fight. Eugene Prasol, a 27 year old IT company employee said, “last weekend, I cannot decide it, should I buy games to play on my PlayStation? And today, I have to decide should I have to fight Russian army till my death.”

The United States have upped their sanctions against Russia, including banning all Russian oil imports. Big food chains like Starbucks, McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, and PepsiCo are closing their locations in Russia. Some are stopping business in Russia, like Harley Davidson, who have stopped parts and products shipping to Russia. Mastercard and Visa have committed to blocking transactions in Russia. The idea behind the sanctions is to put pressure on the upper class who will then put pressure on Putin and the government to stop attacking Ukraine and bring Russia’s economy back.

Russia has recently taken action to block or heavily restrict social media platforms for its citizens. Instagram and facebook have been completely removed, Twitter is heavily restricted, and Tik Tok is not allowing users in Russia to upload videos. These are all efforts to stop information getting to the people in Russia-keeping the citizens in the dark about the war so they cannot speak out about it.


All sources used have been linked below: