Never could I have imagined that Ukraine would go through this hell. My beautiful homeland with centuries-old monuments, a country of peace-loving people, is being destroyed. These past 15 days have changed everything and been the most horrifying of my life. I wake up each morning not knowing if my close ones are still safe and alive.
The Kremlin is now executing Ukraine for its democracy-building efforts, while the world’s leading democracies do little to help us defend ourselves. Vladimir Putin’s Russian army continues to claim the lives of innocent Ukrainians each day while the West drags its feet in providing Ukraine with much more meaningful military assistance to protect our sky from Russian bombs and missiles.
I work at the Action Center in Kyiv, an anti-corruption NGO. Until the invasion, my colleagues and I had been watchdogging the Ukrainian government, cleansing the country’s judiciary, and advocating for reform. Despite challenges and roadblocks, Ukraine had been gradually and steadily building democracy.
Now the Russian military is shelling and striking residential areas across Ukraine—places like Kharkiv, Mariupol, Sumy, Chernigiv, and Kyiv have all come under attack. Some 900 towns and villages are cut off from electricity, gas, and heat. Many towns, like Mariupol, face humanitarian catastrophe, as Ukrainians are forced to sit in shelters for days, waiting for the Russian bombardment to end. Thousands of civilians cannot evacuate because Russian invaders are shooting convoys; just a few days ago, a mother and her two children were brutally killed in Irpin, a town in the suburbs of Kyiv. The evacuation route Russia offered out of Mariupol was mined.
Russia started a large-scale phase of this gruesome war on February 24. It expected to end it a few days later, having successfully replaced Ukraine’s legitimate government with a Russian puppet regime. But that hasn’t happened. The Kremlin appears to have severely underestimated the backbone and resolve of Ukrainian fighters, which, although they are fewer and less equipped than the Russian army, is immense. Westerners have seen evidence of this courage in President Volodymyr Zelensky’s stoicism. But everyday Ukrainians are just as strong. “Molotov-cocktail parties” are being held in cities and towns that Russian convoys are approaching. Farmers are standing in front of Russian tanks. One woman even knocked down a Russian drone with a jar of tomatoes. According to Ukrainian armed forces, over just 13 days, more than 12,000 Russian troops were killed, and 335 tanks, 81 helicopters, and 49 planes were destroyed.
Russia, for its part, has begun targeting civilians, including children, committing war crimes. Ukraine’s young sambo champion Artem Priymenko and his entire family were recently killed by an air strike in Sumy. The neighborhood of Okhmatdyt, home to the national children’s hospital, which treats kids with the most severe diseases, was shelled. Patients in need of special treatment were forced to move into unequipped basements. A few days ago, another rocket attack took place not far from the hospital. New footage has emerged of a direct strike on a maternity hospital in Mariupol. In total, about 1,300 peaceful people have been killed by Russia in besieged Mariupol alone.
I am terrified by each story. I am afraid to think how many more will come. I have a little son, and I was lucky to evacuate him to Poland; he is safe now. I am in Poland too, actively advocating among international partners for more military aid for Ukraine and harsher sanctions against Russia that will truly crash its economy as soon as possible. Still, many Ukrainians remain trapped in areas of the country under Russian assault. Why does the West helplessly watch?
Yes, the Ukrainian army is performing miracles defending Ukraine. But most Russian war crimes are being committed with bombs and missiles. Human capacity to stop them is limited. If NATO is afraid to enforce a no-fly zone over Ukraine, it has to do everything possible to arm the country urgently so Ukrainians can do it ourselves. We need much more advanced air and missile defense systems than we have received so far, as well as more drones, fighter jets, anti-tank weapons, and mobile artillery.
What else can the West do to stop Russia? Ukrainians are asking that, in addition to enforcing economic sanctions, the Financial Action Task Force blacklist Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism. This measure will block all international transactions with the country. European nations should follow the example of the U.S. and impose an embargo on Russian gas and oil immediately, not wait until 2030. All Western countries’ ports must deny access to Russian ships. Russian oligarchs and their family members with ties to Putin should be sanctioned by Western countries; their assets should be frozen and their visas revoked.
The whole world seems to admire the Ukrainian fight against Putin. But Ukrainians do not need empty words. Neither do we need a Ukraine Genocide Remembrance Day, with officials in different countries tweeting “Never again.”
The “never again” moment is happening now, and the West is failing to prevent it. Russian aggression can still be stopped and the lives of children can be saved, but the West needs to step up urgently.
Ukraine will win this war. The question that worries me is at what price.