FRIDAY BRIEFING | Ukraine war: One year on and the ramifications for SA and the world

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Ukraine war: One year on 

Thirteen months ago, few people would probably be able to pinpoint Ukraine on a map or tell you who the president of that country was.

That all changed on 24 February 2022, when Europe woke up to a war in its midst when Russian President Vladimir Putin, after months of threats, announced "a military operation in Ukraine". But he never officially declared war on Ukraine. 

In that address, Putin made unsubstantiated claims that Ukrainian forces were carrying out a "genocide" in breakaway pro-Russian territories in the east. Explosions rang out in the capital Kyiv, at the Black Sea port of Odesa and Kharkiv on the border with Russia.

Later in the day, Russian ground forces backed by tanks and other heavy equipment crossed into Ukraine from the north, south and east.

The US offered to evacuate Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky from Kyiv. He reportedly responded, "The fight is here. I need ammunition, not a ride."

Russia expected it would be an easy war. But a year later, all indications point to Russia losing ground. The war has also proved costly both from a political and economic point of view for Mother Russia.

With the backing of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and Western nations, Ukraine has fought fiercely. It has managed to recapture some of the territories lost during the initial stages of the war.

US President Joe Biden's recent surprise visit to Kyiv also sent a strong message to Putin and the rest of the world, indicating the west is behind Ukraine and Putin will not be allowed to get away with his violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

In this week's edition of Friday Briefing, we reflect on the invasion over the last 12 months and the impact it has had, not just in Ukraine and Russia but also back home. 

Rhodes University's Professor Nhlanhla Cyril Mbatha writes it is fair to say even if South Africa had vehemently condemned Russia's war, the economic effects would still have been the same.

But he adds, given most of this country's business is done with Europe, the US (and only recently with China), our government should rather be valuing the economic well-being of its citizens by aligning its foreign policy with its economic posture. 

British-Russian author Niko Vorobyov details what it was like to wake up in St Petersburg a year ago to hear his country had invaded Ukraine. 

Ukraine's ambassador to South Africa, Liubov Abravitova, writes while Ukrainians did not choose this war, they remain ready to fight for their existence as a nation and country.

We also have submissions from the Ukrainian Association of South Africa and from News24 columnist Oscar van Heerden. 

Hope you enjoy the read.


Vanessa Banton Opinions editor 

SA should align its foreign policy with its economic posture. Here's why

The biggest way in which the war in Ukraine has affected South Africa's the economy has been through the energy crisis. Other economic effects could still be avoided but only by a sheer stroke of luck, argues Nhlanhla Cyril Mbatha.

The war hasn’t left Europe freezing, but has caused crises in unexpected places

Thanks to a combination of preparation and luck, Europe has avoided blackouts and power cutoffs over the past year while war has raged in Ukraine. Instead, less wealthy nations like Pakistan and India have contended with electricity outages on the back of unaffordably high global natural gas prices, writes Amy Myers Jaffe.

Now I know what it was like to be German in 1939

Russian-British journalist and author Niko Vorobyov reflects on how a year ago, he woke up in St Petersburg to news Russia had invaded Ukraine, and how not only his life has changed since then, but his country too.

One year ago, we woke up to horror

A year ago, Russians villainously attacked Ukraine. They stole old age from our parents and childhood from our children. Ukrainians didn't choose this war, but that night we woke up to suchlike horror and stood ready to fight for our existence as a nation and country, writes Ukraine's ambassador to South Africa, Liubov Abravitova.

My family history is full of tragedies caused by Russian rule over centuries

Natalia Novikoa is a Ukrainian doctor living in South Africa. She writes about what her family and friends have gone through over the past year. She is wishing "for a Ukrainian victory. We cannot have ‘Russian peace’. We know what Russian peace means."

Ukraine war: A year in which the world changed

One of the key international developments flowing from the Ukraine war is that the world as we know it has changed and will keep on changing. The dominance of the collective west is certainly fading. The time of coercion and cajoling smaller states to support them is over, argues Oscar van Heerden.

Ukraine war exposed the folly – and unintended consequences – of ‘armed missionaries’

The war in Ukraine was a colossal blunder on Vladmir Putin’s part: It has weakened Russia significantly, solidified the NATO powers around the leadership of the United States and created a more unified, nationally conscious Ukraine than had existed before the war, writes Ronald Suny.

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