Silvester Nosenko from Ukraine’s SD Platform gives an update from Ukraine and suggests how we can help people in the country as Russia’s invasion continues.
Now into its fifth month, Russia’s war of conquest against Ukraine continues with no signs of abating. Terrorist acts are becoming an increasingly common tool throughout the country, as exemplified by recent missile strikes on a shopping mall in Kremenchuk and a recreation centre in Odesa region that killed 40 people and injured more than a hundred. These attacks are aimed at intimidating the general public and inhibiting trust in the government. Russian troops continue seeking to capture as many Ukrainian cities in the east as they can, while foisting onerous terms on farmers in the south, who are forced to hand over 1/3 of their crop to the occupiers.
Their insanity has also acquired a palpable political manifestation: On 30 June, the Russian State Duma proposed a bill aimed at amending the country’s constitution to admit new entities into the Russian Federation, in a clear move to officially annex Ukraine’s territories. On the same day, an amendment to federal laws on the armed forces was presented, introducing ‘special measures in the economic sphere’ that oblige Russian businesses, irrespective of ownership, to supply Russian ‘special military operations’.
Taken together, these factors indicate that Western hopes for a stalemate on the frontline that would nudge both sides to the negotiating table are steadily dwindling. Putin’s regime is bracing itself for a drawn-out war against the archenemy that will allow it to tighten its grip on Russian society.
Furthermore, the international effort to strengthen Ukraine militarily is raising a justified cause for concern. Despite all the deliveries the army has received, the word ‘strengthen’ here is quite misleading. Before the full-scale invasion started, the Ukrainian Armed Forces had around 900 artillery cannons at their disposal, whereas the currently available number has shrunk to not more than 150. With Soviet-type munitions exhausted, it gives Russians a decisive advantage on the battlefield, where they launch about 10 times as many shells as the Ukrainian army per day.
In turn, this corroborates statements emanating from the Office of the President of Ukraine on the amount of weaponry needed to win: 1,000 155 mm howitzers, 300 multiple-launch rocket systems, 500 tanks, 2,000 armoured vehicles, and 1,000 drones. To these should be added anti-missile systems to replace outdated air-defense systems that can take down Russian aircraft but not missiles, and automobiles, 60 percent of which are now found in the UK within an affordable price range.
Besides, the approach to helping Ukraine also has to be human-centred. The current issue is that national and international aid organisations are now mostly focused on meeting the urgent humanitarian needs of internally-displaced persons, thus omitting the strategic picture, including housing. The IDPs need long-term solutions before winter comes to replace un-winterised mobile houses and schools, where many of them now reside. Government efforts notwithstanding, permanent housing needs of IDPs living in the city of Lviv alone are estimated at €750 million. At the moment, Ukrainian refugees abroad receive more aid than those displaced in Ukraine, and this disparity should be addressed.
Non-material forms of assistance are also vital. It should comprise psychological rehabilitation to Ukrainian troops coming back home from the frontline as well as to victims of conflict-related sexual violence. The latter also require an extensive international reparations effort to restore justice for those afflicted.
Lastly, our partners would be well-advised to offer internships and other cooperation opportunities to Ukrainian progressive NGOs, such as SD Platform, to make sure that the voice of Ukraine is heeded and that our perspectives are broadened by new experiences and contacts.
Silvester Nosenko is the International Affairs Coordinator of the all-Ukrainian NGO SD Platform. He also works as a simultaneous interpreter, providing linguistic services to the President of Ukraine and the First Lady of Ukraine. Silvester is also pursuing a PhD in international politics at Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv with the focus on Eastern Europe and security studies.