Ukraine-Russia Developments: Student Response

Following several weeks of speculation surrounding the tensions along the border between Russia and Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the authorisation of a “special military operation” into Ukraine last Thursday morning.

The Russian government’s defense ministry is said to be targeting Ukrainian military infrastructure and claimed its air raids posed no threat to civilians. Despite this, dozens of Ukrainian lives have already been lost, and many more citizens are fleeing their homes. 

In the hours since, the situation has been rapidly developing, as it is expected to continue for the next several hours and even days. As news outlets struggle to keep up with the events, governments all over the world are putting out their official statements. Condemning the actions of the Russian government, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte expressed that his thoughts are “with the Ukrainian people.” His foreign minister, Wopke Hoekstra, has called the Russian government’s actions “acts of war, for which they will pay a heavy price.” Similarly, U.S. President Joe Biden promises that “the world will hold Russia accountable”, following the accusation that “President Putin has chosen a premeditated war that will bring a catastrophic loss of life and human suffering”. Meanwhile, China’s UN Ambassador Zhang Jun has not followed other governments’ open condemnation of the Kremlin’s actions, but has instead expressed Beijing’s encouragement of diplomatic solutions. 

So far, however, tangible action is yet to be taken. Urging their government to act quicker, people living in The Hague are taking to the streets. Almost immediately following President Putin’s announcement, a protest began to form outside the Russian Embassy in the Hague, before moving on to the new Dutch parliamentary building. The demonstration included many concerned LU students, some of whom are personally affected by the situation. Chris, a second year IS student, although not Ukrainian, lived in Ukraine for a few years following the initial Crimea invasion in 2014. As such, joining the protest was an easily made decision: “I wanted to stand by my friends who are experiencing it first hand in Kyiv.”

Chris is joined by other IS students who share his concern and personal troubles. Aida is also a second year IS student and says that “war is close to home”. Her relatives in Romania and Bulgaria told her of all the troops and helicopters that could be heard today. Naturally, she couldn’t stay away: “I participated because I do not support any type of violence and I consider myself an idealist who believes in human rights and freedom of expression. I can’t stay passive and I wanted to demonstrate my support with the Ukrainians.”

There are more non-Ukrainian students eager to show their support of their friends, colleagues, and classmates. Krzysztof Witt, a first year IS student from Poland, is also joining the protests. Through this, he hopes that this “will show Ukraine that the international community has their back, and will put pressure on the EU to introduce tougher measures against Russia in order to protect democracy and freedom in Ukraine and in Europe as a whole.” 

However, even students with no ties to either Russia or Ukraine felt the need to go out and voice their concerns today. A Dutch second-year IRO student explains that she “felt the need to go out of compassion.” Her statement is further illustrated by the heavy bag she carries over her shoulder, filled to the brim with freshly baked pancakes for protestors in need of a snack. Taking a bite of her own pancake, she further echoes what many other students are also proclaiming, namely that “these protests are not anti-Russian, but anti-the actions of the Russian government.” 

Chris expresses his thanks to students like the above-mentioned ones who joined the protests today and he urges others to do the same: “Students would be gaining a lot by going to these demonstrations where everyone is united, no matter what nation they’re from.” After all, he says, the demonstrations were “a perfect place to get to know Ukrainian people, to hear their stories, and to get a better perspective on how it is impacting them and their families.” 

What is important above all – and for which the IS tutors and lecturers are crucial – is that students educate themselves more about Ukraine itself. “I’ve seen on TikTok and other social media a gross misrepresentation about Ukraine and the invasion,” Chris states. Proper information, he elaborates, comes from Ukrainians themselves, and especially those organizing and participating in the protests. Krzysztof echoes this sentiment, adding “it’s essential that as students and young adults, we band together and speak out (this means in class and on the streets). If we stay silent now, Europe’s future will be a bleak one.

Putting deeds to words, Krzystof is joining another protest in the Hague that is currently taking place. It started at 15:30 at the Ukrainian Embassy to show solidarity with the Ukrainian people, and will move towards the Russian Embassy as a protest against the aggression of the Kremlin and the Russian government. All across the Netherlands, Europe, and the world, similar protests are currently happening and are expected to happen, as citizens all over the globe stand up against war, and for peace.

This article is for informational purposes only and does not reflect the views of the Baismag board

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