Home United States USA — Political In Ukraine, one question looms: What will we do if Russia attacks?

In Ukraine, one question looms: What will we do if Russia attacks?


This military build-up that was perceived as mere chatter a couple months ago has since become a resounding alarm bell for Ukrainian society, writes Olesia Markovic. There’s a desperate search for answers to a very crucial question: What should we do as citizens if Russia attacks?
But Ukraine has already been at war for nearly eight years. In 2014, Russia annexed Crimea and Russia-backed separatists took control of the eastern Ukrainian cities of Donetsk and Luhansk in an ongoing conflict that has claimed some 13,000 lives, according to estimates by the United Nations in 2019. What we’re facing now has already been at a simmer, and it’s now dawning on all Ukrainians just how quickly this could boil over into war throughout the country. I clearly remember my last trip to Donetsk in May 2014 as a staff member of the Organization of Security and Co-operation in Europe Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (OSCE/SMM). There were occasional shootouts in the city, and our security protocol forbade us from leaving the hotel. When it was time to leave, our brand-new armored truck brought us to the once-posh Donetsk airport, which had become an empty and gloomy place. There were only a few passengers among men in unidentified uniforms and a tank nestled in a flowerbed, pointing its muzzle at the departing planes. We got to the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv safe and sound, but a few days later, Donetsk airport became the backdrop of a deadly battle between Russia-backed separatists and the Ukrainian army. Back in 2014, it was perfectly clear what was happening in the Donbas region along the Ukrainian border was staying there. The Ukrainian military localized the war, so most civilians (except for those living near the battlefield) did not feel the effects. Odesa beaches, Kyiv restaurants and Carpathian ski resorts functioned as usual. Yet, for many, including myself, it was obvious that the Donbas situation was like a deep wound covered with just a band-aid — you might not be able to see it, but if it’s not properly addressed, it can cost your life. Now, in 2022, it has suddenly dawned on everyone in Ukraine that war can break out beyond the Donbas region and disrupt everyday life in the rest of the country. According to the Russian playwright Anton Chekhov, if there is a rifle on the wall in the first chapter, it must go off in the second or third one.

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