As Russia invades Ukraine and millions of lives are plunged into uncertainty, we outline how to provide help to Ukrainian citizens
In the early hours of Thursday morning, blasts rang out across Ukraine. After months, if not years, of escalating tensions, embassy evacuations, and international sanctions, it was the moment that many citizens had been fearing, as nearly 200,000 Russian troops assembled at the Ukrainian border to embark on an invasion, a move that could lead to the biggest conflict in Europe since World War II. Vladimir Putin had officially declared war.
War, for many Ukrainians, has long felt like a terrifying inevitability. “My parents live around 30 kilometres from Russia, so it scares me a lot to think that some random Russian people could be there in just half an hour after crossing the border,” Oleksandr, a 24-year-old creative manager and publicist told us last month. Meanwhile, Ukrainian parents have been known to send their children to school wearing stickers bearing their blood types. Though discord between the two countries can be traced back to the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Kremlin has been dogged in its attempts to regain control over its former “sphere of influence” ever since. Over 14,000 Ukrainians have been killed and a further 1.5 million have been internally displaced following Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014.
Despite many Russians calling for an end to conflict, Putin’s tireless, colonial efforts reached the point of no return when, in December, Ukraine and NATO refused to rule out forming an alliance. Now, as Kyiv braces itself for invasion, disaster is already underway. With fatalities mounting, Ukraine has declared a state of emergency and thousands of residents have rushed to flee via the Polish border, while men are reportedly being banned from leaving the country, forced to join the army. On social media, young people are desperate for help, live streaming from packed metro stations, which many are using as bomb shelters, their sobs audible over blood-curdling air raid sirens. As Russia claims to have captured the Hostomel airport outside the capital and killed over 200 soldiers, Ukraine is entering its defensive phase.
What comes next is uncertain, but it cannot be overstated just how frightening it is to be living in Ukraine right now. In the mere hours before Russia marched into the country, the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky delivered a moving speech. “Our main goal is peace in Ukraine and the safety of our people, Ukrainians,” he said, adding that “nobody will have guarantees of security anymore.” As aggression continues to escalate, below, we’ve outlined five actionable ways that you can support the people of Ukraine.
SUPPORT UKRAINIAN JOURNALISTS
Dear international media, when covering 🇺🇦, please remember, Ukrainians are not pawns in a geopolitical game. We are real people, 40 mln, with our agency, ideas and aspirations. Majority of us (~60%) want to join the EU&NATO. We are ready to resist Russiahttps://t.co/eUn7oJdvO4— Olga Tokariuk (@olgatokariuk) January 23, 2022
It is more important than ever to bolster and amplify the work of Ukrainian journalists. English language outlets based in the country, such as the Kyiv Independent and the New Voice of Ukraine, are covering developments as the conflict unfolds, using local journalists who are grappling to defend editorial independence. You can support the Kyiv Independent on Patreon or GoFundMe, while the New Voice of Ukraine can be found on Patreon. As for journalists to follow, consider Olga Tokariuk, Sarah Rainsford, Christopher Miller, Olga Rudenko, and Manny Marotta.
Write to your local MP to impose severe sanctions against Russia and support for Ukraine. All the contact details for UK members of parliament can be found here and here, while the Ukrainian Institute in London has prepared draft template letters here. “Demand your governments to apply harder sanctions and cut Russia from SWIFT to stop a humanitarian disaster in Europe,” says London-based journalist Olya Kuryshchuk. You can also write to the prime minister and foreign secretary, as well as the leader of the opposition, Keir Starmer, to urge him to back such action.
“I was born in a peaceful Europe. But today my family is stuck in Kyiv. My father, brothers, and childhood friends are fighting with guns in their hands, while my mum and six and eight-year-old nieces are sheltering from bombs. They all got attacked while the country was sleeping,” Kuryshchuk adds. Alternatively, taking to the streets and putting pressure on the government to help the Ukrainian people is a powerful way to show solidarity. Follow Ukraine Solidarity Campaign and Euromaidan London for details on upcoming demonstrations or scroll through a list of protests against the war that we have compiled here. Though it can often feel futile, there is an extensive list of petitions you can sign to put further pressure on Westminster and European governments to act with the Ukrainian interest in mind – like this one, which is calling to ban Russia from SWIFT, the international payments system.
Long story short: I just walked to Poland.— Ukraine Conflict Live 2022 (@UkraineLive2022) February 25, 2022
It was a hellish 20-hour journey undertaken in the middle of winter with thousands of refugees. I saw some terrible things:
There are several charities working to cushion the devastation that the Russian military is imposing on the everyday lives of Ukrainians while funnelling equipment to those being conscripted. Sunflower of Peace is a charity that helps paramedics and doctors, and has been fundraising for supplies, including first aid medical tactical backpacks. People in Need is providing humanitarian aid to over 200,000 people, CARE International is responding by giving food, hygeine kits, psychosocial support to those in need, while the International Medical Corps is preparing to help citizens with emergency health care services. Otherwise, United Help Ukraine is a nonprofit volunteer organisation currently fundraising to provide emergency medical aid and humanitarian relief to those on the front lines. It receives and distributes donations, medical supplies, and food to Ukrainian refugees, people on the ground in Ukraine, and supports families who have lost soldiers to war. You can also help to support Ukrainian refugees, who are putting their lives at risk to escape the country, here.
Otherwise, 100 per cent of the proceeds from the sale of the spring issue of Dazed – featuring cover star Mustafa the Poet – will go towards the UN Refugee Agency, which is urgently upscaling relief operations across Ukraine and in neighbouring countries to support fleeing civilians. Outside of Ukraine, the charity supports citizens displaced by emergency crises in Ethiopia, Yemen, Rohingya, Syria, and Nigeria, among others. Of course, Ukraine is still in desperate need of aid amid the Russian invasion of its land, but this shouldn’t come at the expense of those who western states have often regarded with apathy (or even complicity in their suffering). The latest edition of Dazed can be bought here.
KEEP UP TO DATE
It is in Moscow’s interest to wield disinformation as part of a battle strategy, to justify and wash its hands of violence, to curry favour from its supporters, and make it intentionally difficult for netizens to grasp the reality of what’s happening. Listen to this podcast about how Russia uses disinformation as an instrument of war for more on that, otherwise, for a bit of a background 101, this piece outlines misconceptions about Ukraine, while Netflix’s Oscar-nominated documentary Winter On Fire: Ukraine's Fight for Freedom traces Putin’s obsession with occupying the country.
Beyond the coronavirus pandemic and unprecedented economic crisis, it’s important to contextualise the current events in Ukraine as part of a relentless project to restore the Soviet Empire and destroy Ukrainian democracy, with experts speculating that Putin’s aggression will not cease until he’s installed a new, submissive leader. Considering how fast moving the situation has become, trustworthy new sources include The Kyiv Independent, The New Voice of Ukraine, Ukraine World, and the Kyiv Post.
BE WARY OF SOCIAL MEDIA
On social media, especially TikTok, fiction is often packaged as fact, with the algorithm incapable of discriminating between real and fake news. Already images purporting to be from Ukraine have been identified as belonging to Palestinians. If you are going to engage with current events online, make sure you are sharing fact-based updates taken from reliable sources from those on the ground in Ukraine. On Instagram Stand With Ukraine, Svidomi, and Ukranians in Solidarity are all good accounts to follow. Also, be careful to monitor the language used to describe the war. The Ukraine Crisis Media Centre has a list of phrases that should be considered red flags and a guide to the correct wording. For example, the occupying forces are not “rebels” but a state-sanctioned military and Russian troops are not “peace keepers” but invaders – starting a cruel and unnecessary war with a significant cost to human life.