The War in Ukraine as Seen From Mentor, Ohio

Half a world away, the war in Ukraine has impacted local citizens who are paying close attention. Read an analysis from one of Mentor’s Model U.N. team officers.



The war in Ukraine has had far-reaching effects, all the way back here to Mentor, Ohio

Sarah Blakemore, Contributor

On Thursday, February 24, 2022, Russia invaded its neighboring country, Ukraine, forever changing the lives of its citizens. Russia under President Vladimir Putin aimed to control Ukraine’s fate once they crossed the border into Ukrainian territory. But by the miracle of patriotism and foreign support, Ukraine is beating the odds and standing firm against Russia.

The History of the Two Nations

Ukraine and Russia have had a long-standing rivalry over the last decade. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Ukraine declared itself a sovereign country. In February 2014, the Ukrainian people overthrew Ukrainian President Yanukovych because of charges of corruption and ties to close to Russia when he rejected an economic deal that would have tied Ukraine more tightly to western Europe. Yanukovych fled to Russia afterwards. The following month, Russia invaded the Crimean Peninsula with troops bearing no Russian flags and declared it “annexed.” Military conflict has continued in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine ever since where the population has Russian sympathies, causing conflict and the deaths of 13,000 Ukrainians.

In about 2015 though, Ukraine, Russia, France, and Germany all signed the Minsk Accords. The Minsk Accords commanded the countries to a ceasefire, the release of prisoners of war, allowing self-governing in areas such as Donbas, and the control of the Ukrainian borders.

Obviously, the Minsk Accords did not stop Russia to attack Ukraine again, less than a decade later. With Putin fearing the westernization and expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) into the Eastern region of Europe, Putin invades a second time causing catastrophic effects on the lives of Ukrainians. Formed in 1949, NATO members joined to stand against the Soviet Union, agreeing that an attack against one is an attack against all. It is Putin’s position that Ukraine – though independent – should never be allowed to join.

Many – including United States President Joe Biden – call this invasion of Ukraine “genocide” because civilians have been targeted. “None of it should hinge on whether a dictator declares war and commits genocide a half a world away,” Biden say. While many Western leaders agree that this act of invasion is genocide, President Putin of Russia believes that this attack on Ukraine is to “demilitarise and de-Nazify Ukraine,” claims for which Putin has provided little evidence and largely deemed false outside of Russia.


The Current Conflict

Expecting a quick victory that would topple the Ukrainian government, this demilitarizing and “de-Nazifying” of Ukraine has not gone to plan for Russia. In the beginning of the war, it seemed that Russia believed that it could take over Ukraine by seizing its capital, Kyiv, in a matter of days. This did not happen, causing the Russians to pull back in the west and refocus on terrorizing and attacking the Donbas region which Putin declared “independent” in February before the invasion.

Admiral John Kirby, spokesperson for the Pentagon, announced “we have seen some early indications that the Russians are in fact trying to resupply and reinforce their efforts in the Donbas.”

Ukraine has been beating the odds against Russia for the majority of this war. This can be contributed by patriotism or even the Ukrainian soldiers understanding of the Ukrainian terrain. But most importantly, Ukraine is winning this war because of foreign involvement.

Since this war started, Western countries have rallied themselves behind Ukraine aiding them through this conflict. For example, many countries such as Canada, the U.S., and a majority of Europe have banned seven Russian banks from accessing SWIFT, which makes it hard for Russian banks to move money internationally. This is designed to pressure the Russian people – especially wealthy Russian oligarchs and billionaires who have profited under Putin’s regime – to convince Putin to end the war. A joint statement from this alliance of western European countries states, “We will hold Russia to account and collectively ensure that this war is a strategic failure for Putin.”

Not only have some countries blocked Russia from SWIFT, which is renounced as the most damaging economic sanction, but some countries have also opened their borders to Ukrainian refugees fleeing the violence. Some of these countries include Poland, Romania, and Moldova where approximately 4.9 million refugees have the opportunity to seek refuge. 

The United States has decided to let in a more limited amount of refugees. A senior administration official says, “We recognize that some may wish to come to the United States.” President Biden announced on March 24th, that he and his administration plans on letting 100,000 fleeing Ukrainian refugees seek asylum in the United States.

The Connections to the United States – and Mentor

Allowing Ukrainian refugees to come to seek refuge in the United States opens the door to the question of how this war in Ukraine has affected the United States and its everyday citizens.

One issue that many Americans face right now is the rise in gas prices. The rise in gasoline prices is due to a number of factors such as the aftermath of Covid-19 and many more. But recently, gas prices have been so high because Russia is a significant exporter of oil on the international market. Starting off in the war, the United States’ sanctions did not include the banning or limitation of Russian oil. Until recently, this exclusion of the Russian oil was done to avoid affecting the U.S. economy, but new sanctions banning the usage of Russian oil in the U.S. are now in place. Even though many European countries such as the United Kingdom have yet to ban Russian oil but to phase it out, their prices are up as well. This is due to the fact that many traders are nervous about buying the oil because the Russian economy is in ruins. Even though gas prices are unusually high here in the United States, it is also high worldwide.

The Russian-Ukraine war has affected the American people nationally but it has also affected us locally. Many citizens in Lake County are actually Ukrainian or are of Ukrainian descent.

Delaney Gyure, a Mentor High School junior, is of Ukrainian descent and has great concerns about the Russian-Ukraine war. Her great-grandparents had many struggles throughout their life in Ukraine, from being forced to emigrate out of Ukraine to Germany and then to the United States during World War II to having to work constantly six days a week as new arrivals to make ends meet, She says other Ukrainian-Americans are having to face more struggles just like her great-grandparents.

I think we could bring more attention to (the war) by possibly hanging flags and posters,” Delaney says. “I also believe that Mentor High could raise money and donate it to a reputable organization.”

By merely hanging posters and flags, as many local residents have done, citizens can bring awareness to the Russia-Ukraine war and the atrocities that are being committed as a result of the war. Many citizens are not aware of this war and or how this war is affecting the whole world. Donations collected locally can also help. 

“I think that people need to realize that Ukraine is not some small country in Europe,” Delaney says. “It has a population of 44 million. Ukraine is one of the biggest agricultural contributors and has the largest Jewish Cultural center outside of Israel.”

Because of this war, 44 million Ukrainians are either displaced, fighting a war, or killed.

Despite the fact that this war between Ukraine and Russia should have ended already with Ukraine being defeated, Ukraine is beating the odds with patriotism, and a will to fight. Ukrainian citizens are standing strong to protect their country. Not only does Ukraine have citizens willing to fight, but it also has support from Western nations. Whether this support is military support or financial, many countries are stepping up. Along with countries as a whole, many citizens are also showing their support for Ukraine by putting out flags or signs in their front yards or donating to the cause. Despite the fact that we are 5,000 miles away from this war, we cannot look past this as another conflict in the world, we need to help Ukraine beat the odds.