It’s a scene that plays out in this UNESCO-listed city, from schools to storefronts and government buildings.
It is also a clear sign that Ukrainians are committed to the long term.
Again, Western leaders had said Russian President Vladimir Putin’s use of such weapons would constitute a red line and lead to unspecified consequences. Speaking to Ukrainians, I found the overwhelming response to be, “Haven’t we all heard this before?
Zelensky’s relatively new strategy of publicly naming and humiliating countries that kyiv believes are sitting on the diplomatic fence appears to be his way of capitalizing on growing global popularity. (Some of my Ukrainian friends joke that the TV comedian-turned-politician is more popular abroad than in his own country). But it is doubtful that this will prompt world leaders such as US President Joe Biden to provide items such as jets – which could make him appear as a belligerent in Moscow.
Red lines must be based on international humanitarian law which no belligerent must cross. This includes the deliberate targeting of non-military sites such as schools, kindergartens, hospitals, water treatment plants and fields used for agriculture. These violations must be considered war crimes and treated as such.
A month into the invasion, the road ahead is likely to be just as bloody. In the worst case, the Russian side, seeking regime change in Kyiv and more territory, could choose to keep a simmering conflict going as it did in occupied Donbass using Russian-backed rebels (they are not separatists). Successive eight-year peace talks failed to achieve a lasting ceasefire.
So with so much at stake, what can the West do? Meeting kyiv’s demands for more weapons and assets such as sophisticated surface-to-air missiles – including more American-made switchblade drones or armed suicide bombers – should be a no-brainer. The no-fly zone concept enforced by NATO jets is a no-start, but if the Russians escalate their aggression by targeting Lviv, for example, this should trigger urgent discussions within NATO on the protection of the Ukrainian sky by technological means.
In the end, the West has a choice to intervene now in the Ukraine war in a game-changing way by eliminating Russian advantages in the air, cutting supply lines and continuing to squeeze the Russian economy. Better to act now on the West’s own terms – and prevent the destruction of the Ukrainian nation – or be forced to do it later on Putin’s terms after thousands of other innocent Ukrainian men, women and children have been massacred.