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Gathered with other hotel guests around candlelight, we laughed and talked while the front desk clerk handed out extra blankets and bottles of water. No hurricane had passed through. No tornados. Today, in Ukraine, the disasters are manmade at the instruction of one man: Vladimir Putin.
Sucked into itself, stacked and wrapped in layers of ever-increasing darkness, night in Ukraine has become a deep void where light, both natural and man-made, disappears for vast stretches of time and distance. As the country nears the shortest days of the year and the longest days of winter, it also continues its march toward total victory over the Russian invaders.
In cities across the nation, from Odesa to Kharkiv and Kherson to Kyiv, the surrealness surrounding life under blackout conditions can hardly be understood even by the residents living through them.
With Ukrainians fighting daily to preserve liberty on behalf of freedom-loving peoples everywhere, and its successes on the battlefield, Russian terrorism against the noncombatant populace is no longer cloaked in the fog of war. The suffering of everyday Ukrainians has become the announced goal of Putin’s criminal regime and the propagandists who help prop it up.
RT, the Kremlin-funded tabloid, recently trumpeted a statement they attributed directly to the Russian dictator, citing nonexistent sabotage as being the impetus for attacks on civilian targets.
Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s impotent, ineffectual Foreign Minister, went so far as to frame rocket attacks on Ukraine’s civilian critical infrastructure as a way to “knock out energy facilities that allow you to keep pumping deadly weapons into Ukraine in order to kill the Russians.”
Using terrorism to snuff out democracy has been a common thread among fascists over the last 100 years, as witnessed by the actions of tyrants ranging from Hitler to Trump. With Putin attempting to emulate Hitler and previously having cozied up to Trump, the acts emanating from the mind of this increasingly desperate strongman don’t come as a surprise to anyone but should horrify everyone.
The madman’s increased attempts to force Ukrainian negotiations and ultimate capitulation through terror-based targeting of civilians prompted Ukraine’s unbowed President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, to call on his fellow citizens to remain strong in the face Putin’s newest campaign, stating, “To get through the winter, we have to be even more resilient and even more united than ever.”
There is no doubt Zelenskyy’s words were already being headed even before they were spoken.
Last week, my commander called me in from the field to prepare for my DC sojourn to meet with members of Congress and correct the Russian propaganda amplified by the Trumpian right. Those scenes described above were what I lived as I traveled to Kyiv and then spent 30 hours there without power.
In the mid-size eastern town of Poltava, a hotel I stayed at remained open despite the lack of power and running water. It was here that the other guests and I found reasons for laughter because that’s what these resilient people do. Then during my last 30 hours in Kyiv prior to departing for the states, the apartment I was staying in was without power, and yet none of the neighbors so much as complained. Instead, their common refrain was a reminder that while Kyiv was without electricity, it was also without the Russian invaders that had attempted to take the city seven months prior.
More than 280 days into his three-day “special operation,” Vladimir Putin is proving the adage that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
No matter how often he attempts to destroy the soul of Ukraine or its literal cities, the ordinary people and places now being targeted by his petulant fury are refusing to be broken.
In defending the concept of democracy for more than three-quarters of a year, Ukrainians are proving themselves heirs to the values, beliefs, and, most importantly, actions that made the United States a beacon of hope for those suffering under the brutality of enforced dictatorships across the globe. Now, in forging an unbreakable bond bathed in the unimaginable strength and sacrifice of free peoples, both nations stand as examples of what happens when democracy is threatened and independence ultimately prevails.
It is because of this shared experience and a shared belief in the rule of law, a free press, and the right of voters to choose their own leaders through free and fair elections that the US must provide Ukraine with the tools now that it needs to secure freedom. International friendship, solidarity, and support provide light in the distance no matter how many times Putin’s rockets and bombs plunge its citizens into darkness. The American-led coalition of freedom-loving nations can enable Ukraine to vanquish Putin once and for all and allow this worthy American ally to strengthen the fabric of humanity that connects enlighted citizens around the globe.