Written by Ryan Miller, 20 JUN 2019
In Kyiv, you will see a multitude of attractions all around you: beautiful architecture, cheap accommodations and entertainment, and some of the friendliest people on the planet. You will see children playing all over the city, unaccompanied by their parents. You’ll see tourists from all over the world, all coming to experience this wonderful city. Why is it then, that if you travel to Kyiv, you may never know about a war that has been raging since 2014 in the country’s east?
The year was 2014 when Russian forces annexed the Crimean Peninsula in Ukraine. No shots were fired. They just took it. Shortly after, the Ukrainian military and national guard began fighting a war against pro-Russian separatists. Since then, more than 13,000 people have been killed and the war has been ongoing in the Donbas region of the country; tensions between Russia and the US, EU, and NATO have risen sky high; and a major humanitarian crisis has taken form with millions of people displaced.
Nowadays, the war is confined to the far eastern part of the country, and people in the west don’t seem to take much notice. An ex-soldier nicknamed Black Cat told us that “The people of Ukraine are tired of war,” referring to war fatigue in the country. “People in Kyiv don’t see the shooting or destruction of buildings, or the blood or the death; and if people don’t see it they don’t care.” Black Cat is actually from Kyiv, and served on the frontlines for the majority of 2014-2017. However, there may be other reasons than war fatigue and a lack of understanding of what it actually looks like for their fellow countrymen
This is a map that is published nearly every day in Ukraine and tracks the combat in the east. As you can see in the smaller map at the upper left corner, the war in confined to a relatively small area and because of this it geographically doesn’t affect the vast majority of Ukrainians. This could offer a reason why you might not hear much about it in Kyiv; most Ukrainians will remember and know about it, but are very far removed.
Another reason is that the majority of Ukrainians don’t ever stray too far from where they’re born. However, there are exceptions. When the war first kicked off, men and women came from all over the country to fight for Ukraine. Of course, there was a wave of people who flocked to the far east of Ukraine to fight for the pro-Russian separatists as well. That patriotic spirit seems to have decreased with time on both sides. With less war migration the result is that nearly everyone fighting on either side is actually from that area. This is important because it removes the rest of the country from the current fight.
There is always more to every story, but based purely on our observations on the ground so far, the contributing factors include: fatigue, geography, and less war migration. As of writing this, there has recently been a new president elected and what seems to be a new wave of Ukrainian patriotism which may involve the rest of the country more than what we see now. There is also new tension between Ukraine and Russia. Only time will tell what will happen here.