Credit: Deng Coy Miel, Singapore

As I write this piece, my immediate family (my mother, my sister, and her school-age children) are hiding out in Kyiv, Ukraine, hearing low flying Russian military planes dropping bombs. Ukraine — an independent democratic nation — is being brutally assaulted while the world watches and wishes them well. No one wishes a war. Certainly no Ukrainian wished for this war to come to them. Yet here the war is waged to destroy and occupy a country of over 40 million people, which by land mass is the largest country in Europe.

Putin’s bizarre rationales that Ukraine has never existed as a nation and was created by Lenin or that he (Putin) is coming to “liberate Russian speaking” people (which includes many of us in Ukraine since we were forcefully Russified under the Russian Soviet rule and have tried to reclaim our language and culture over the past 30 years) are stunning in their brazen falsity. What his claims should remind people who know actual history is that Hitler used the same rationales of supposedly protecting and liberating Germanic peoples when his Nazi army began their invasions. I encourage the reader to go on to the official U.S. Department of State website to learn how to separate Kremlin fabricated fictions from facts:

Standing by while one nation wages a brutal murderous war against another nation — wishing Ukrainians well, reminding ourselves that since Putin is not going to stop NATO we must prepare for attacks on NATO territories — is not enough.

Putin’s Russian government has participated in the worst atrocities and human rights violations for dozens of years and yet we also have done little. To remind: it was Putin’s government that influenced the presidential elections of 2016 and 2020 — and while routinely presenting America and the West as a great evil, the Kremlin has openly thrown its power behind groups with “America First” rhetoric. Putin’s government has been responsible for poisoning, imprisoning, and assassinating political leaders, journalists, and activists. Putin’s military has been behind supporting the Syrian regime as well as violently quelling democratic protests in Belarus and Kazakhstan. Under Putin’s draconian “gay propaganda” laws, untold number of LGBTQ Russians have been killed and assaulted. Even domestic violence laws were dissolved in Russia.

Ukraine has been formally attacked by Putin’s government for many years. In 2014 Putin’s military occupied Ukraine’s Crimean territories while telling the world his military was not even present, falsely claming that Ukrainians just decided themselves to give over Crimea to Russia. In Eastern Ukraine, Putin has been recruiting, funding, training, and supplying with weapons and his own troops groups that Western media terms “separatists.” When an airplane traveling to Thailand with 250 people on board — half of them children — was shot over Eastern Ukraine from an airstrike that originated from Russia with a Russian missile, the world took a horrified breath and looked away. For years now Russia has waged cyberattacks, funded misinformation campaigns, and bullied Ukraine. Over the past year prank bomb threat calls originating from Russia were so common (nearly a dozen a day in Kyiv) that Ukrainians now have a separate word for “dealing with another bomb threat.”

In contrast to Russian official government that presents itself as a “democracy” while having a dictator in power for over 20 years now and for dozens more years to come, Ukraine has had multiple democratic governments elected. Dissident Russian, Belorussian, and other post-Soviet national activists and journalists flee to Ukraine for protection. Ukraine’s politics and economy have been a mess, yet the people of Ukraine keep persisting toward democratic actions.

If merely grabbing a big piece of land Putin believes should be his is not disturbing enough to the reader, consider his “kill list.” This list was released by the U.S. Department of State among many other efforts to highlight the Kremlin’s plans. It includes anti-Putin dissident journalists and activists but also ethnic minority leaders and LGBTQ community members. In 1940s Germany, protestant minister Martin Niemöller, who joined the resistance long after Nazi came to power, made a statement that should speak to us all: “First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out — because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out — because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out — because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.”

What can be done? Please listen to Ukrainians, including their/our remarkable brave president Zelenskyy. He and the Ukrainian people are asking all the governments of the world to unite in supporting Ukraine. Certainly the military aid and involvement seem vital when a non-militarized nation like Ukraine is fighting one of the most militarized, brutal armies in the world. Among other immediate actions are:

*  Ensure the no-fly zone over Ukraine is enforced since Russian military pilot jets are currently dropping bombs not just on supposed military sites but on civilian communities.

*  Demand that Russia be cut off from SWIFT international banking exchange, which will ensure that the flow of money to and from Russia is stopped. Someone is funding Kremlin’s aggression, and it might be us as we support businesses and economic ventures that benefit the Kremlin and Putin. Please write to your/our political representatives demanding these actions because waiting on “more severe steps” while Ukrainians are being killed is just wrong.

*  Join anti-Putin protests. Putin is a murderous dictator who should be and will be tried as a war criminal. Begin to demand now that the UN and the world acknowledge him as such.

*  Resist blaming all Russian people. Russian people, both in Russia and around the world, are standing up against Putin and this war. In Russia they are beaten and jailed. Here in the U.S. they are speaking up against Putin’s violence. Equating Putin with all Russians or Russian culture is just as problematic as Putin’s rhetoric erasing Ukraine.

*  Donate to organizations that are trying to help. Here is a link to groups that have begun to actively collect donations to support Ukrainians:

And then, we can also join the voices of 13 Ukrainian border guards on the Snake Island off of Odessa who were killed in Russian attacks:

Oksana Yakushko, PhD, is a member of the doctoral psychology faculty at Pacifica Graduate Institute and a local psychologist who immigrated from Ukraine 30 years ago.


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