What you might’ve missed

Even though it’s not making headlines, the Russo-Ukrainian War still needs your attention

IGNORED: The Russo-Ukrainian War has all but disappeared from American interest since March.

IGNORED: The Russo-Ukrainian War has all but disappeared from American interest since March.

As normal life moves forward for most Americans, a war continues to ravage the people and land of Ukraine. While the Russo-Ukrainian War may have fallen out of many people’s social media feeds, the war still demands the attention and spotlight of the world as Ukraine fights for their sovereignty, and, ultimately, for democracy. 

Over the past few weeks, the war has continued to cause disruption and agony for Ukraine and the people still living within and those that have escaped its borders. The battle has also turned to the sky, where Russia has been using an increasing number of air strikes to target necessities, ranging from electricity to water. Russia is also turning to Iran to purchase long-range weapons, including ballistic missiles that Ukraine has little defense against. But, with aid from the United States and its allies, the nation has been able to ward off Russia with strong air defense systems. 

Another success for Ukraine was Russia’s recent decision to retreat from the strategically valuable city of Kherson, following Ukraine’s recent success in reclaiming Russian occupied and annexed territory. Altogether, though, the war lacks an end in sight. Both sides remain hesitant to conduct peace talks, especially as Ukraine holds Russia to a tough list of demands that must be met before the war torn nation would let negotiations begin.   

While it is easy to focus on the movements of the war, it is crucial to still remember and acknowledge the people who are living in a warzone everyday. The day-to-day life in these battlezones, particularly in Russian occupied territory, has revealed absolute brutality as Ukraine reclaims their land. Ten torture sites uncovered within the town of Izium, according to an investigation by the Associated Press, and other instances of torture across the nation, alongside countless reports of sexual assault at the hands of Russian soldiers has illustrated the atrocities of the war. The people victim to these war crimes are ordinary people, including children of all ages. In fact, the United Nations has investigated cases of sexual and gender-based violence against people as young as 4 years old all the way to 82 years old. These are obvious and clear acts of disgusting violence and war crimes from Russian troops. The outside world, especially the West, who is Ukraine’s strongest supporter, cannot ignore the violence and human rights violations innocent Ukrainian civilians are facing. 

Acts against people living in Ukraine extend beyond direct violence; Russia continues to target crucial Ukrainian infrastructure. Nearly a third of the nation’s power plants, substations, and distribution lines have been damaged by Russian missiles and Iranian-made drones. Ukrainians have been sent into blackouts, leaving people without electricity and heat as the country heads into winter. This places inhabitants in an even more precarious situation: they live under the constant threat of Russian airstrikes, alongside a growing threat of “energy terrorism,” as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy refers to it. All things considered, Russia not only continues its war against Ukraine, but its war against its citizens, young and old. That is a cause for alarm, and Russia’s war crimes must not be turned a blind eye to, especially as people continue to suffer. 

We, as Americans, are an ocean away from this war, affording us some ability to ignore it at will. For most in Europe, this isn’t true. Many countries are bracing for a long winter without Russian gas, which means rationing heat and electricity in any way they can. While they are searching for alternative sources of energy like wind and natural gas, for many, this energy crisis means a sacrifice of culture. In Finland, where sauna baths are tradition, the government is asking people to shorten them or go without in order to conserve gas. The Eiffel Tower is going dark earlier for the same reasons, taking away the glow that has lit Paris for as long as most people can remember. While this is by far not the most important thing about this war, it is impossible to argue that it is not noticeable, and hanging onto traditions in times of crisis are important. Our cultures are a crucial chunk of who we are, but when that identity, or even pride in that identity, is dimmed, we struggle to contest those who try to force their own identity and agenda. 

Now, with the U.S. up in arms about the midterms, Europe faces a new fear: they may lose key support in their efforts against the war. Despite an ocean between us, we really are not so far separated from these issues, and the worst thing we can do right now is give up. We cannot look away, because having the public eye on Putin is the only thing that could keep him from committing more atrocities, and the only way to hold him accountable for what he has already done. We have to keep pressure on our politicians, because Europe and Ukraine are dependent on American aid – beyond military support, our government is providing vital humanitarian resources to help Ukrainian citizens directly impacted by the war. We may not be actively involved in this war, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t care; it is not about the political battles or strategic moves. Ultimately, there are real people in every news story we see who deserve our care and consideration, who deserve at least a quarter of the attention we’re giving the midterms, simply because they too are human. 

And if this hasn’t convinced you, care out of your own self interest. Even though Ukraine is advancing now, there’s no saying what will happen tomorrow, or the next day, or a month from now. Care so the war stays and ends that ocean away, because not watching sends a message to Putin that he can do what he wants. If he thinks that, what’s stopping him from continuing these atrocities, or even pushing beyond Ukraine’s borders?