Horror in Bucha
“We will never forgive the Russians for what happened here.”
On February 23, 2022, Bucha was a peaceful town located about 23 miles northwest of Kyiv. But life irrevocably changed for its 35,000 residents when the next day Russian President Vladimir Putin suddenly launched an unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. Russian tanks and armored columns soon attacked and conquered Bucha. However, past week, Ukrainian forces have successfully regained the initiative and driven the Russians out of the town.
The world was prepared for the sight of destroyed Russian tanks littering Bucha’s once tranquil streets. But the world was not prepared for the sight of lifeless bodies of innocent civilians. Many had been shot at close range with their hands tied behind their backs. Other searing images of Russia’s unlimited brutality included the bodies of over 300 people tossed into a 45-foot-long trench.
“Why do they hate us?”
One distraught survivor spoke for many when she beseeched a reporter asking, “Why do they hate us?” The harsh but brutal answer is that the atrocities in Bucha are part of what America’s National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan called, “a deliberate reign of terror” intended to instill fear and force Ukrainians to surrender and accept Russian demands.
Instead of breaking the will of the Ukrainian people, the Bucha atrocities are stiffening their will to resist the Russian invaders. The mayor of Bucha spoke for his besieged country when he forcefully declared, “We will never forgive the Russians for what happened here.” Visibly shaken by what he saw, President Zelensky condemned the wanton violence as an act of “genocide.”
A Test of European Will
The atrocities in Bucha are sparking widespread global outrage and growing calls for stronger sanctions against the Russian economy. The Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania responded by becoming the European Union’s first nations to cut off deliveries of Russian gas and oil. The three Baltic nations will now rely upon supplies of liquified natural gas (LNG) from the United States.
The Baltic states receive about 26 percent of their gas from Russia. In contrast, the other members of the European Union import about 40 percent of their energy supplies from Putin’s government. The reliance upon Russian fossil fuels is particularly acute in Germany. Europe’s most important and influential country imports about 55 percent of its oil and gas from Russia.
European leaders recognize the contradiction between decrying Russian atrocities while financing Putin’s war machine. European countries have paid Russia more than $20 billion for oil and gas since the war began. Momentum is building in European capitals to support a compromise package that would ban Russian oil and coal while phasing down Russian gas.
Is this a Turning Point in the Ukraine War?
Dramatic headlines often punctuate the ongoing rush of events. But do these events mark true historic turning points? For example, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor stunned the American people. Japanese military leaders confidently predicted the United States would lack the will to fight a prolonged war. They were wrong. An angry and now unified America entered World War II determined to crush the Axis powers.
Will the atrocities in Bucha mark a turning point in the war in Ukraine? The answer to this question is still unknown. Historic turning points typically do not announce themselves by saying “here I am!” For example, many British authorities initially thought the Boston Massacre was an isolated event that would soon be forgotten.
It is possible the massacres in Bucha will blend into the ongoing violence as the war now shifts to the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine. However, it is also possible that Putin has crossed a “red line” that will provoke a united Western response.
FOR FURTHER DISCUSSION AND WRITING
- List two reasons why the atrocities in Bucha may mark a historic turning point in the war in Ukraine. List two reasons why they may not mark a historic turning point.
- Can Germany and other European Union countries resolve their outrage at Putin’s atrocities with their dependence upon Russian oil and gas?
- “Why do they hate us?” – Write a short statement answering this poignant question.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION
Today’s Commentary drew upon news reports from ABC, NBC, and CBS. It also utilized information from the following articles: “Atrocities near Kyiv fuel global outrage” (USA Today), Baltics cut off Russian gas, but German and the European Union face a struggle” (The Hill), and “Bucha massacre tests Europe’s red lines” (Washington Post).
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