Ukrainians face uncertain future as Russian invasion grinds on

The US and other western allies have donated billions in military aid to Kyiv

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In the six months since Russia invaded, Ukrainian Nadia Pahava has existed in a strange reality — one in which the future does not exist.

It is one of many ways the 26-year-old from Kyiv has attempted to endure the brutal conflict that has engulfed her beloved country.

“My planning at the moment is paused until further notice,” said Ms Pahava, a communications and public relations expert. “Because if we make any decision, we have to take into consideration that even if the conflict is frozen, it can break out at any minute.”

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has robbed her and millions of others of the luxury of a planned future. Starting a career, finding a home, having children — all have been postponed as the war grinds on.

“We've postponed planning anything that huge for at least some time,” she told The National.

The conflict began on February 24, when Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, attempting a blitz to the capital to allegedly install a puppet government.

But a mix of poor planning and incompetence on the Russian side — and an unexpected pluckiness and billions in military aid from the West on Ukraine's — has transformed the war into one that was expected to last a week into one that has lasted months.

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In recent months, the war has slowed to a stalemate, with heavy fighting pushed to the eastern and southern parts of the country.

The war can be felt everywhere, however, and continues to dictate life in the capital and elsewhere.

Ms Pahava has tried to balance her job and personal life with the war, choosing to consume only limited information about what is happening on the front line.

“Internally, this has been so complicated,” she said. “I do want to know, so I sometimes, for example, ask my boyfriend to just give me a short overview of what happened over the day, or I do a scroll of the news myself.”

On the other side of the world, Yurii Barybin has spent much of the past six months glued to his phone, waiting for updates from his father back in his native Kherson and scanning for updates on the conflict.

As he now lives in Los Angeles, California, Mr Barybin is typically only able to speak with his father once a week, as Kherson has been under Russian occupation for months.

“They don't have Ukrainian cell phone reception there,” he explained.

His elderly father must therefore brave the dangerous streets of Kherson searching for a Wi-Fi connection to get messages to his family members, many of whom are now abroad.

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Mr Barybin's fears for his father's safety are not unfounded. The UN reported that the war in Ukraine has killed 5,800 civilians so far, including 972 children.

About 9,000 Ukrainian soldiers have also been killed, the country's armed forces chief said. That number, while high, pales in comparison to the believed number of Russian soldiers killed so far.

Russia does not disclose its number of dead, but US President Joe Biden's administration estimated in July that at least 75,000 Russians had been wounded or killed.

“It is a big problem that we don't have this communication that we had before,” Mr Barybin, 39, told The National.

To stay informed about the conflict, he relies on a variety of Telegram channels.

Parsing through “fake news” has been a challenge, especially for Ukrainians living abroad, but a series of “trusted” sources has allowed him to stay on top of events.

“We try to use these channels as a source and certainly talking to people who we know who live in Kyiv and Lviv,” he said.

Telegram is a popular news source for many on both sides of the conflict, though both Kyiv and Moscow have accused each other of using the platform to push propaganda.

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As he anxiously waits for the war to end, the music and events producer is doing his part to help his country: he has enlisted his many connections in the entertainment to put on a number of benefit concerts for Ukraine.

While Russia is relying primarily on its own military hardware during the conflict, Ukraine has been backed by a steady stream of aid from its western allies, including the US, which has sent about $10.6 billion in military assistance.

The weapons and equipment from the US and other allies have been instrumental in ensuring Ukraine is able to hold its own against one of the most powerful militaries in the world.

“President Biden has been clear that we will continue to support the people of Ukraine in defending their country from Russia’s aggression for as long as it takes,” said US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a statement announcing the latest round of aid, which included 15 ScanEagle surveillance drones.

Six months of conflict has left Ukrainians at home and abroad shaken, but their determination and resolve remains.

Ms Pahava is determined to carry on with her life, while continuing to support the war effort.

“We know things are not fine,” she said, expressing her longing for the days when Kyiv was alive at every hour of the night.

“But at the same time, we do want our economy not to be dead so this is why if you come to Kyiv or any of the other cities in Ukraine, you would see that life is working.”

Updated: August 24, 2022, 5:42 AM
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