Fears are growing around the world about what this means for the people of Ukraine. Conflict between the countries has already cost the lives of 14,000 people since 2014. There appear to be no signs of abatement, in what could escalate into a bloody and ruthless war in the coming days and weeks.
Existing tensions have grown as President Putin recognised the independence of the two breakaway regions of Ukraine and ordered military troops into the east of the country. This was followed by a major military assault on Ukraine last night, with reports of missile strikes and explosions in major cities.
Our local correspondent, based in Kyiv, shared with us the fear and anxiety that many Ukrainians feel:
“Until two days ago, when Russia illegally recognized Ukrainian separatist regions, I was among the majority keeping calm. I hadn’t packed my emergency bag in case I suddenly had to leave. The morning after Donetsk and Luhansk were recognised, me and other sceptics who still thought an invasion was unlikely, started packing our emergency bags and checking the nearest bomb shelter on the map, just in case. We don’t know if we will need these measures, but it feels safer somehow.
“The situation now feels identical to the one in February 2014. Putin’s actions seem unpredictable. There are many different scenarios, and nearly all of them scare me and other Ukrainians. Most of the people living in Kyiv don’t plan on moving to the west of Ukraine, where it is believed to be the safest, or going elsewhere. Either they have nowhere to go, can’t afford to move, or both.
“Despite the uncertainty, local peacebuilders and NGOs will stay and deliver. They are continuing conflict resolution and mediation training in Kyiv for people from Donbas, including for those who live along the contact line. They want to create a safety net for them, and hope and pray that the journey back to Donbas will be a safe one. Local peacebuilders also provide humanitarian support to the people of Donbas who have been affected by the intensified shelling over the last few days. The motto these days for Ukrainians like me is ‘Do not spread panic, but be ready for anything’.”
While war now appears inevitable, we urge all people to remember our shared humanity, so that we don’t fan the flames of conflict. We urge our supporters not to lose hope, and to keep believing that peace is possible, even in these troubling times.
Our experience of working with local peacebuilders in some of the most conflict affected countries has taught us that opportunities for peace emerge in the most unusual places and with the most unlikely of people. These opportunities must be grasped, however hard it might be. We honour all the local peacebuilders in Ukraine who will continue their life saving work, even at great risk to themselves. And we urge world leaders to continue to seek a diplomatic solution to the crisis and to never give up on dialogue, even if the violence escalates.