On Thursday morning, at 5:00 am (local time), Russia attacked Ukraine with airstrikes on various cities, including the capital city of Kyiv.
Before the attack, Russian President Vladimir Putin televised a speech that announced a ‘special military operation’ targeting Ukraine, aiming to “demilitarize” the country.
“The Europe we knew no longer exists,” said Professor Lubomyr Luciuk, President of Ukrainian Canadian Club of Kingston, while sharing collective sentiments of the Ukrainian community in Kingston.
Luciuk, a professor of Political Geography at the Royal Military College of Canada (RMC), shared that one could take the recent attack as equivalent to the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001 with respect to its impact on the world.
As widely reported internationally, the current crisis in Ukraine has escalated into a Russian invasion, which has been broadly condemned by the international community, including the United Nations, G7 Leaders, European Union, NATO, Australia, and other allies.
A joint statement by G7 leaders reads:
“This crisis is a serious threat to the rules-based international order, with ramifications well beyond Europe. There is no justification for changing internationally recognized borders by force. This has fundamentally changed the Euro-Atlantic security situation. President Putin has re-introduced war to the European continent. He has put himself on the wrong side of history.”
Professor Luciuk shares the sentiments of the Ukrainian community in Kingston, particularly the youth who aspire to progress, get educated, and impact the world. Still, he said, all they see is war, conflict, and what he calls an intended genocide.
In Putin’s previous speeches, he has claimed that Ukraine is not a state, but a historical part of Russia. Professor Luciuk explained that when a leader has this unilateral approach and mindset of “they (Ukrainians) don’t exist,” then that’s a mindset of intended genocide.
“The world is progressing, but this attack today has taken us back to the times of cold war or before, in terms of bloodshed, sociopolitical impact, and international impact,” said Luciuk.
The current crisis could cost thousands of civilian lives, with many currently trying to evacuate Ukraine, seeking refuge in neighbouring countries. Many countries bordering Ukraine have publicly declared their borders open to Ukrainians fleeing the volatile situation.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a statement on Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022, condemning Russia’s attack on Ukraine, calling the “unprovoked actions… a clear further violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.” The statement also accuses Russia of violating their obligations under international law and the Charter of the United Nations.
“The world has to come together to stop this. They must not give in to a bully like Putin and come up with some concrete measures to address this international crisis, as it is going to affect everyone in the international community,” said Luciuk
The G7 partners are expected to discuss next steps with NATO and other allies as they collectively respond to Russia. This could include imposing more significant sanctions in addition to those already announced.
“We continue to stand with Ukraine, its people, and the Ukrainian Canadian community here in Canada. Russia’s brazen acts will not go unpunished,” said PM Trudeau.
According to the UN refugee agency, approximately 100,000 Ukrainians have already fled their homes. More than 40 troop and at least ten civilian casualties have been reported so far by Ukraine.
Earlier this month, the Ukrainian-Canadian Club of Kingston organized a rally as a part of the international ‘Stand with Ukraine’ movement on February 6, 2022. Prof. Luciuk said plans are underway to organize another similar event where Ukrainian students from Queen’s University and St. Lawrence College will participate to show solidarity with Ukraine and victims of violence under attack from Russia.
When asked about how Canadians, and particularly the local Kingston community, could contribute or help people in need in Ukraine, Professor Luciuk asked those who pray to “Keep praying for the people in Ukraine.”