Russian President Vladimir Putin declares war on Ukraine| Last updated [12:48 PM, 3/15/2022]

NATO Defense Force activated for the first time in history

Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine on Thursday, the North Atlantic Trade Organization (NATO) Defense Force has been activated for the first time in history.

NATO consists of 30 allied countries, including the United States. 

NATO allies are sending troops, resources, weapons and providing aid but not directly getting involved as of yet. NATO Secretary-General Jans Stoltenburg has said that NATO will not send troops directly into Ukraine unless an allied country is attacked by Russia.

Multiple countries including the U.S., UK, Germany and Taiwan have set up sanctions on Russia, meaning resources have been cut off. Some Russian banks have also been removed from The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), a global financial system, meaning that Russia will have difficulties exchanging interbank transactions with any other country. There are also multiple travel restrictions to and from Russia as well. 

Around 4 a.m. on Thursday, Feb. 24, the Russian military sent in airstrikes, bombings and ground attacks into Ukraine that is devastating multiple cities including its capital Kyiv. 

These attacks followed a televised declaration of war from Russia’s President Putin, where he stated that he had made the decision to “carry out a special military operation” on Ukraine to “demilitarize and denazify” the country. Putin called the Ukrainian military to lay their weapons down, and if they do so, they would leave the front lines unharmed. 

“Anyone who tries to interfere with us, or even more so, to create threats for our country and our people, must know that Russia’s response will be immediate and will lead you to such consequences as you have never before experienced in your history. We are ready for any turn of events,” Putin said in his declaration.

According to the United Nations, there have been about 6,000 Russian military casualties, about 4,000 Ukrainian military casualties and 549 civilian casualties. 70 of those civilian casualties have been children. Airstrikes, bombings and ground attacks from Russia have continued with heavy resistance from Ukraine. According to Ukraine’s foreign minister, over 1,500 buildings have suffered damages or have been destroyed completely. 

Russian forces have taken control of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, despite being warned about the dangerous radiation from the nuclear accident that happened in 1986.

Ukrainian National Guard soldiers were sent to take position in Kyiv on Friday after the city was targeted by Russian airstrikes. 

Ukrainian citizens have created makeshift bomb shelters in subway stations and basement buildings. There have even been newborn babies from neonatal intensive care units in Dnipro, Ukraine that had to be moved to the bomb shelters after the city was targeted by Russian missiles. 

More than two million people living in Ukraine have sought refuge in neighboring countries such as Poland and Romania.  

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky has called a “general mobilization” which is activating the military reservists to help fight against the Russian forces. Additionally, many Ukrainian citizens have been taking up arms and fighting alongside them.

“We are fighting, we will be fighting – not only our brave and motivated military but all Ukrainians,” Oksana Markarova, Ukrainian’s Ambassador for the U.S., said in a press conference at the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington on Thursday. 

President Zelensky has also declined an offer from the U.S. to be evacuated from Ukraine’s capital city of Kyiv, saying, “I need ammunition, not a ride.” 

Despite the possibility of President Zelensky being the prime target of Russian forces, he is staying in Kyiv and fighting.

“I am here. We are not putting down arms. We will be defending our country, because our weapon is truth, and our truth is that this is our land, our country, our children, and we will defend all of this,” President Zelensky said. 

Protests against the war are being conducted around the world, including in Washington D.C., Toronto, Buenos Aires, Ukraine and even in Russia. The signs include phrases like “Arrest Putin” and “Stop the War”. 

Former President Barack Obama has called this a “senseless war,” and made a statement to the American people saying, “people of conscience around the world need to loudly and clearly condemn Russia’s actions and offer support for the Ukrainian people.”

The Ukrainian military released that about 200 Russian troops have been taken as enemy prisoners of war (EPWs). They estimate that 29 helicopters, 198 tanks, 77 artillery systems and 60 fuel tanks from the Russian military have been destroyed. 

“The enemy is demoralized, he is in agony,” Ukraine Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said in a tweet on Tuesday. “The occupiers are firing on civilians because Ukrainians with weapons are too strong.”  

On the 40-mile-long convoy of Russian troops to Kyiv, the Russians have been surrendering to Ukrainian troops without a fight due to low morale. The Russian forces have been facing shortages of food, fuel, weapons and ammunition as well which has slowed the progress of the convoy. 

It was also reported that the Russian troops were not properly briefed on the invasion, and were even told that this was a training exercise and not a real invasion. 

According to Kyiv’s defense chair, President Putin has dismissed eight military generals from service because of the devastating losses the Russian forces have faced against the Ukrainians. Additionally, Ukrainian snipers took out Russian Maj. Gen. Andrei Sukhovetsky at the beginning of March. 

Russian troops continue to occupy Chernobyl, and it was reported that the military equipment brought into the plant by Russian troops caused radiation levels and air pollution to increase. Russian troops also shut off the electricity at the plant, which means the radioactive fuel can not be cooled. This could result in radiation leaks. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was informed by Ukraine that they are no longer able to communicate with the plant. 

Russian troops have also taken control of another nuclear power plant, Zaphorizhzia, which is Europe’s largest nuclear power plant. While it has not been confirmed, it is being alleged by the Ukrainian Defense Intelligence Agency that Russia is planning a terrorist attack at Chernobyl.

Amidst potential involvement of NATO, President Putin ordered a high alert status on Russia’s nuclear forces, saying that “no one should have any doubts that a direct attack on our country will lead to the destruction and horrible consequences for any potential aggressor.”

In Russia, there are massive “disinformation campaigns,” which included the banning of Facebook and Twitter on top of legal repercussions for spreading false information about the war.