The night is over. This was our first night in what I fear will be a very very long war.
Kyiv residents “slept” (if that’s what you can call it) in bombshelters, subway stations, basements. Many have left the city for safer havens. Air raid sirens have just sounded in Lviv — the city in the west that was supposed to be beyond Putin’s sphere on interest. Practically all of Ukraine’s cities experienced some form of attack during the last 24 hours.
War looks and feels different from the outside. Don’t get me wrong: we appreciate the public demonstrations of support worldwide! Ukrainians are particularly hopeful that Russians (more specifically — Moscovites) will finally rise up against their murderous tyrant.
For our western friends, the priority now should be to push for a no-fly zone to be declared and enforced by NATO over Ukraine.
Please don’t stall with this. Just two days ago I was debating Putin’s rationality and intentions. That is completely irrelevant now. He is killing people! Many people! If he is not stopped, he will start WWIII.
Russian soldiers, captured yesterday after abandoning their tanks, claimed they did not know that they were being sent to kill Ukrainians. But that’s what they’re doing — killing.
Today and tonight will be crucial. Ukrainian forces have (so far) enjoyed early successes in the battles around Kyiv: Hostomel airport remains in Ukrainian hands, advances from Belarus and from Russia via Chernihiv have been stopped. This morning we have reports of Russian special forces already in the capital — according to the Ministry of Defense this adventurous group has been destroyed. But we may yet see pitched battles in the government quarter…
Much is being said of Putin’s ability to “take” Kyiv. But even if Ukraine’s government falls, this war will not end. Acts of heroism like yesterday’s self-sacrifice of 13 brave servicemen on Zmiyinniy Island (massacred by the Naval vessel Moskva) will become commonplace. Russia cannot win this war. Even if a puppet government is installed, Ukrainians will continue to fight. Invasion will degenerate into insurgency. Ukrainians simply will not live under Russia.
Whatever the outcome of the coming days, life will never be the same here. Ukrainians are united like never before: collective hatred of the invader will eventually transform into cooperation and reconstruction. But in the meantime, many more will suffer and die.
It doesn’t have to be this way! Sanctions are good, but Ukrainians need air cover NOW.
* Thoughts from Kyiv is a series of flash essays by Mychailo Wynnyckyj from February 2022