Photo illustration by Giovana Fleck and Ivan Sigal. Photo: Public bus, Mariupol, Ukraine, July 2016, by Ivan Sigal.

Photo illustration by Giovana Fleck and Ivan Sigal. Photo: Public bus, Mariupol, Ukraine, July 2016, by Ivan Sigal.

Russia’s second invasion of Ukraine started on February 24, 2022 and has resulted in major loss of life, damage to vital infrastructure, and the displacement of over 8 million refugees as well as millions of internally displaced Ukrainians. The West has leveled unprecedented sanctions against Moscow in response, significantly weakening the Russian economy. At the same time, the Russian government has cracked down on critics, shut down independent media, and imposed draconian penalties on individuals who oppose the war. 

In less than half a year of war, Kyiv has successfully defended major urban centers, with increased military support from the West, and despite a major asymmetry in forces and equipment compared to Russia. Moscow, on the other hand, despite claims of harboring one of the most powerful armies on earth, has been bogged down by a lack of preparation, ineffective internal communication, low morale, and failing resupply routes. It has nevertheless managed to control large parts of the east of Ukraine in the Donbass region, and, at times, the Kherson region.

The front line shifts on a daily basis, and both sides take and lose territory regularly. The human cost remains extremely high, with dozens Ukrainian and Russian soldiers, as well as Ukrainian civilians, dying on an almost daily basis. 

The daily threats to Ukrainian security have also affected its society and institutions. Key national debates are now centered on the need to accelerate reforms, the role of women, media plurality, the approach to Russian culture, a new identity defined by the war effort, and the even more crucial role of digitization. 

Belarus, which borders both Russia and Ukraine, has also been dragged into the conflict, as it serves as a base for Russian troops and equipment, while some Belarusians have joined the Ukrainian defense forces to fight Moscow and the pro-Russian regime of Lukashenko in Minsk. 

Diplomatically, Russia has become increasingly more isolated. China and India, initially strategically ambiguous about the invasion, have started to distance themselves from Moscow’s action. A large majority of UN members have condemned Russia’s actions, while NATO and the European Union are providing Ukraine with political support, military equipment, and humanitarian aid. Nascent discussions regarding Ukraine’s reconstruction have emerged, but the key questions of who will pay the estimated USD 750 billion needed, how aid will be distributed, and who will rebuild Ukrainian cities and infrastructure remain unanswered. 

At the same time, the war is also turning into an economic one: Europe is caught in a gas conundrum as many countries depend on supplies from Russia, while there are few reserves to meet the looming 2022–2023 winter season. 

Similarly, a number of countries largely dependent on grain imports and fertilizers from both Russia and Ukraine are caught in the trade war, given that the passage for ships transporting goods is blocked by Moscow’s attacks or affected by sanctions.

Global Voices is covering the war with a special focus on consequences, both political and economic, in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Latin America, and Central and Eastern Europe, while animating the lived experience of people in Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus. 

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