Russia’s aggression vs Ukraine’s invincibility
by Dr. Rey D. Pagtakhan
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy at state event to celebrate the Year of Invincibility. (Photo from the Photo Gallery, Official website of the President of Ukraine, February 24, 2023)
On the eve of the one-year anniversary of the Putin-induced full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy welcomed to its war-torn capital and streets under alert air-raid siren American President Joe Biden, instead of Russian President Putin who, a year ago, claimed arrogantly he could conquer the country in three short days.
Biden’s visit to the war zone – extremely risky – 1) reflects staunch American support “for as long as it takes” Ukraine to defend its freedom and liberate its homeland, a consistent talking message by the leader of the Free World; 2) is a strong morale boost for the beleaguered people; and 3) serves as a vivid reassurance that they shall always be remembered and their terms for peace shall prevail. It additionally sends the unmistakable message to Putin that US and NATO see the situation as a vital threat to their own national interests, values and security. Justly, a painful reminder to Putin that he has failed to achieve the objectives of his so-called ‘special military operations,’ notwithstanding 365 days of significant losses.
Because we are Ukraine!
Equally, this one-year anniversary of Putin’s war of conquest reflects the resilience and invincibility of the Ukrainian people against Russian aggression. Began President Zelenskyy when he addressed his nation on February 24th.
“A year ago, on this day, from this very place, at about seven in the morning, I addressed you with a short statement. It lasted only 67 seconds. It contained the two most important things, then and now. That Russia started a full-scale war against us. And that we are strong. We are ready for anything. We will defeat everyone. Because we are Ukraine!”
He ended his address by capturing the essence of “Because we are Ukraine!” – the resolve to win against the year-long fire and fury of Putin’s imperial madness:
“We withstand all threats, shelling, cluster bombs, cruise missiles, kamikaze drones, blackouts, and cold. We are stronger than that. It was a year of resilience. A year of care. A year of bravery. A year of pain. A year of hope. A year of endurance. A year of unity. The year of invincibility. The furious year of invincibility. Its main result is that we endured. We were not defeated. And we will do everything to gain victory this year! Glory to Ukraine!”
Stand with Ukraine – a nationwide commemorative event
To commemorate Ukraine’s resistance and invincibility, Canadians in more than 40 communities across the country held on February 24, via the leadership of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, candle-lit vigils, fundraising supper, and solidarity events – collectively dubbed Stand with Ukraine – to show “support for the Ukrainian peoples’ right to live free and in peace in their own homeland.” What a privilege to be a part of the huge Winnipeg event held at the Canada Museum of Human Rights: at the rally outdoor calling on all levels of government to sustain their assistance and at the patriotic musical performance indoor to convey gratitude to supporters and to have them experience the existential struggle of the Ukrainian people against Putin’s full-scale aggression.
Putin’s war machine still raging – a year of shame
Indeed, Putin’s war machine in Ukraine is still on a year later today from its onset – a shame in a civilized world. For it has been a year of aggression, brutality, and cruelty to Ukrainians: to thousands of the dead and maimed, the unarmed civilians tortured and killed, the women and mothers raped, and the children kidnapped and “re-educated” against their will; to the millions of seniors, children, mothers, and women displaced from their homes, villages, cities and country; and to the countless more trapped in the country and traumatized daily.
Truly, the severity and scale of family dislocation/separation and human depravity caused by Putin’s war is unfathomable. His imperial madness has known no limits. His cruelty has fired missiles across the country, and artillery bombarded homes, apartment buildings, schools, children’s theatre, maternity hospital, and energy facilities, not to mention the fertile agricultural lands he has turned into killing fields.
Salute to bravery and value-laden leadership
We salute the men and women who have decided to stay to defend their collective freedom, honor and homeland, and President Zelenskyy for his inspiring leadership rooted in human values. And we salute, too, the leaders of the Free World for being with the Ukrainian people at their time of greatest need.
How the war might end
Into its second year, no peace is on sight. Indeed, it is awfully difficult to predict the end nor can anyone foretell with precision. Nonetheless, we have faith in Ukraine’s cause and in the ultimate salutary outcome.
Three weeks into the war on March 13th a year ago, many will recall Pope Francis’ plea and prayer: “With pain in my heart, I join my voice to that of the common people, who implore an end to the war! Let the cries of those who suffer be heard and let the bombings and attacks cease! Let there be a real and decisive focus on negotiation.” Sadly, the war went on.
Most recently, the United Nations has once more condemned Putin’s genocidal war on Ukraine and has sought urgent peace. Sadly, Putin’s response was to announce his suspension of the New Start nuclear weapons treaty with the United States. Purportedly to intimidate Ukrainians! I never imagined I would actually come to learn in my lifetime of a man with a heart of stone.
President Zelenskyy, in contrast, has put forward his peace formula. May the nations of the world take heed and lend support.
To be continued.
Dr. Rey Pagtakhan was one of the three Members of Parliament on the Canadian Parliamentary delegation that observed in Kiev the 1991-referendum-vote on Ukrainian independence from the Soviet Union and was, subsequently, a preceptor (1992-1999) to successive Ukrainian parliamentary interns under the Canada-Ukraine Parliamentary Program. He served as Canada’s Secretary of State for Asia Pacific and Minister of Veterans Affairs from January 2001 to December 2003. He had earlier written on the topic (Putin’s act of war in Ukraine: A crime against the Ukrainian people, a crime against world peace – March 1, 2022; The Genocide of Ukrainians Is Taking Place’ – March 16, 2022; “Damaging evidence of more war crimes – April 16, 2022).