Russia invades Ukraine; the US expands sanctions against Russia

 Russia invades Ukraine; the US expands sanctions against Russia

Last week on February 24, Russian forces launched an invasion of Ukraine and attacked Kyiv, the country’s capital city. The Russian invasion of Ukraine was a major international incident that led to widespread condemnation and sparked anti-war demonstrations in cities around the world.

The latest toll for civilians killed in Ukraine is 102, with 304 people wounded, while the actual number is anticipated to be “considerably higher,” said UN Human Rights Chief Michelle Bachelet. On Sunday, Ukraine’s interior ministry offered higher figures, reporting 352 civilians killed.

Russian military buildup along the Ukraine border has heightened tensions between the two countries and strained bilateral ties, with the United States sending a clear signal that an invasion would be met with harsh economic repercussions for Russia.

President Biden’s press secretary, Jen Psaki, said on Sunday that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to put Russia’s deterrence forces on high alert, which includes nuclear weapons, is part of a broader pattern of unprovoked escalation and “manufactured threats” from the Kremlin. A senior official of the Biden administration told CNN: “At every step of this conflict Putin has manufactured threats to justify more aggressive actions — he was never under threat from Ukraine or from NATO, which is a defensive alliance that will not fight in Ukraine.”

The United States has condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine and announced sanctions against Russia’s central bank on Monday — a move that prohibits Americans from doing any business with the bank as well as freezes assets within the United States.

On February 25, President Biden instructed the State Department to release up to an additional $350 million worth of weapons from US stocks to Ukraine. The Pentagon said that anti-armor missiles, small arms weapons, body armor, and a variety of munitions were provided to Ukraine’s front-line defenders. Several countries, including the United States, are providing military assistance.

The United Nations’ refugee agency estimates that more than 500,000 people have fled to neighboring countries, with most going to Poland. Africans seeking refugee have reported being turned away and blocked from entry on trains, buses, and at police borders — alleging that police are giving priority to Ukrainian women and children.

Several videos of incidents have been surfacing on social media under the hashtag #AfricansinUkraine. One Nigerian student recounted racist treatment while trying to flee Ukraine. “Those of African origin, they are not even helping us at all,” he said. “Which is why many of us are actually choosing to go to Hungary right now.”

The Ukraine conflict has also revealed prejudice and racism in the media. On Saturday, CBS News Correspondent Charlie D’Agata apologized for his statement when he said that the conflict in Kyiv wasn’t “like Iraq or Afghanistan that has seen conflict raging for decades. This is a relatively civilized, relatively European” city. Activist Hend Amry tweeted in response: “He hears himself sounding racist, he acknowledges that he should be careful to hide the racism, but ultimately is unable or unwilling to actually stop the racism.”

In the same week that Russia bombed Ukraine, the US carried out its first airstrike in Somalia since August 2021. On Thursday, Israeli missiles struck near the Syrian capital of Damascus, killing three soldiers. This is the fourth Israeli airstrike on Syria this month. Yemen was also bombed and remains the ‘worst humanitarian crisis.’ Save the Children is the largest aid organization that has been responding to the crisis in Yemen since 2015.

If you’d like to support the people in Ukraine, here’s how you can help. 🇺🇦

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María Guillén

María Guillén

María is a writer, serial city dweller, and founder of Policybae. She's passionate about social justice advocacy, organizing action, and mobilizing change around sociopolitical issues. María holds a Master of Policy Management from Georgetown University and a dual degree in Public Relations and Communication Studies from Rowan University. Follow María on Twitter: @_mariaguillen

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