Op Ed- Effects of Russian War felt among Seattleites
By Kevin Henry
There are an estimated 100,000 Ukrainian Americans in Washington state.
I cannot speak for them, but I feel compelled to relay the terror, shock, and despair coming directly from people currently residing in Kyiv, Ukraine's capital city.
Perhaps by gaining a better understanding, we can make a more informed decision on how to best support them during this horrific tragedy.
What we are witnessing today from our leaders is the choice to sacrifice an entire country to avoid involvement in a larger conflict.
Today friends awoke to the sounds of a new war, of missiles hitting the international airport and Left Bank in the capital of Kyiv. Friends whose morning has been filled with civil defense sirens as explosions line their horizon.
The city and culture of Kyiv, of Ukraine as a whole, predates the founding of Moscow by a millennia, they have their own culture, their own language, their own art and society - but now we live in an era where truth is subjective, and you can make up whatever lies you want to justify horrible actions.
Russia is the aggressor now, just as they were eight years ago, just as they were when they annexed Ukraine and abolished the autonomy of its people over 200 years ago. Just as during the Holodomor in the 1930s when Russia created a man-made famine, starving nearly 4 million Ukrainians to feed the industrialization of the Soviet Union.
Imperialist Russia is the aggressor, just as it has always been.
Today's fighting is not "special military action in support of historically Russian territory" This is War on Ukraine.
It is an invasion of a sovereign state.
It is a violation of the Budapest Memorandum treaty, signed by Russia in 1994, the first two articles of which are:
1) Respect Belarusian, Kazakh and Ukrainian independence and sovereignty in the existing borders.
2) Refrain from the threat or the use of force against Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine.
It is definitively about more than just the far-eastern regions of Donbas. Today Russian armored units entered Ukraine through Belarus, more than 300 miles west of the conflicted Donbas region. More than thirty Russian helicopters attempted to land troops at the Antonov airport just slightly northwest of Kyiv. Armored units have seized control of the former Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant and radioactive Exclusion Zone, 70 miles north of Kyiv.
These are not "disputed areas."
This is a massive pincer move around the capital city of Ukraine, with cruise missile and jet fighter attacks around Lviv and approaching the western border; about as far as you can possibly get from the supposedly "disputed" regions. Russia's occupation of the Chernobyl Zone is a clue to Putin's overall strategy. It could be an attempt to control of existing power grids - a vast amount of Ukraine's electricity still flows through the dispatch grid and line yards of Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, making it a national grid hub.
They could also be trying to secure the new ISF-2 radioactive waste storage facility to keep control of nuclear material and prevent it from going missing, or possibly to acquire it. As of this writing, I am still receiving updates from friends who cannot get out of Kyiv.
The overall tone is one of shock, but there is an underlying current of self-determinism in their will to expel foreign invaders. There is an understanding that Putin and Russia are fully aware that their reasons for this war are preposterous, but that they do not care and will attempt to get away with whatever they can for the sake of Empire - until they are stopped by force.
To my Ukrainian friends overseas, and those here in our community, I'm so sorry. I wish people here could know you the way I have come to, over the last few years; there would be no hesitation to stand shoulder to shoulder and prevent what happened today. You deserve better than this. You deserve more support than we have given, and despite all of our proclaimed strength, the time to lend the help you've been asking from us for decades - to stave off disaster - has passed.
They are a people worthing knowing, and their stories are worth our attention.
Kevin Henry is a traveling photographer and Cold War history enthusiast, writing here as an advocate for relations with Ukraine.