By the end of 2021, Russian President Vladimir Putin deployed large numbers of Russian troops close to Ukraine’s borders with denials of there being a future attack. During the early morning hours on Feb. 24, Putin launched a “special military operation” into Ukraine, where Russian forces attacked Northern, Eastern and Southern Ukraine from the air, land and sea.
During a Feb. 24 TV address, Putin claimed Russia could not feel “safe, develop and exist” due to a constant threat from modern day Ukraine. Putin’s justifications for the Russian-led invasion included the “demilitarization” and “de-Nazification” of Ukraine.
Since the initial attack, approximately 836,000 Ukrainians have fled the country, and Russian forces have killed more than 2,000 civilians, according to the State Emergency Service of Ukraine.
“I was born in Ukraine back in 1982, when it was still under Soviet Union occupation, but in 1991 we regained our independence when over 50% of all the territories of Ukraine, including Crimea, voted for independence of Ukraine,” said Valeriy Goloborodko, Honorary Consul of Ukraine in Seattle.
In 2006, Goloborodko immigrated to the United States. Goloborodko describes himself as a happy husband and a happy father to four children who has lived in Bellevue since 2013, and before that, Kent.
“I was appointed as Honorary Consul in 2015 by our Minister of Foreign Affairs, Klimkin, and since then I am serving in this capacity to our community, to Ukraine as a country, and to United States as a country, because my heart is for both countries,” said Goloborodko. “My children were born here, and this country is the future of my children, so I take privilege to serve in this capacity and to build bridges and help strengthen relationships between our nations.”
Goloborodko focuses on the development of relations, including economic relations, between the Washington and Oregon regions, Ukraine, and the United States as a whole. His offices are located at the Ukrainian consulate in Seattle.
The Honorary Consul also ensures that Ukrainian citizens who are in prisons, jails and detention centers are not discriminated against and have similar conditions to individuals who represent other nationalities. Goloborodko brought up how he does not issue passports, but rather organizes remote consular services.
“As a matter of fact, one was scheduled for [March 2] and the following day and hundreds of people were supposed to come and apply for passports — hundreds of people were supposed to come and receive their passports — but because of Russian aggression, because of Russians who are against Ukraine and against humanity; against principles; against values; because of Putin, this is not going to happen,” said Goloborodko.
‘Ukrainians are peaceful people’
According to Goloborodko, as of the end of 2019, Washington state had over 70,000 individuals with Ukrainian heritage.
“When this full-blown invasion started, we received emails, we received phone calls from people who started remembering and started talking and said their great-grandparents were from Ukraine,” said Goloborodko. “Now more and more people are saying that this war is not just a war of Ukrainians against Russia, it’s war of every people of goodwill against the evil regime of Putin.”
Regarding Putin’s justifications of the “demilitarization” and “de-Nazification” of Ukraine, Goloborodko stated that there is no threat to Russia that is coming from Ukraine.
“That is exactly what he wants [to rebuild the Soviet Union]. He said the biggest tragedy of previous centuries is the collapse of the Soviet Union. That is his goal, but not his ultimate goal,” said Goloborodko. “Ukrainians are peaceful people. We never attack anybody. We are considered the food basket of Europe. We are growers, we are farmers — we are growers of food. That’s what we do.”
Goloborodko described how Ukrainians elected their president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who has Jewish heritage, and that Ukrainians will not support any forms of fascism or Nazism. According to Goloborodko, Ukrainians cherish their multicultural and multi-ethnic community.
“We all live as one beautiful bouquet of flowers — no matter what color, no matter what visual differences we may have, what languages we may speak at home — we live as one country, as one beautiful bouquet,” said Goloborodko. “So, [Putin’s] justification that he has to save Ukraine from Nazis is a big lie, but this lie comes not for the people of Ukraine. This comes for people of Russia and he’s using his propaganda machine to spread this lie.”
Impact of invasion
As a result of the invasion, Russia has become disconnected from the world.
The European Union and the United States are among nations that have imposed sanctions on Russia, and select Russian banks have been cut off from SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication), the primary global payment system, which Russia relies on heavily for oil and gas exports.
Major businesses such as Nike and Apple closed online stores in Russia on March 1. Boeing and Airbus have ceased supplying Russian airlines with parts for maintenance. In addition to the imposed sanctions, countries including the Netherlands, Estonia and the Czech Republic, among others, are sending weapons to assist the Ukrainian defense.
Sweden and Finland, which have remained neutral during previous global conflicts, and Germany, which has a reputation for not sending weapons to conflict zones, are also sending military grade weapons to assist Ukraine during this war.
“We appreciate the financial support that we receive, but we also want to know if there will be further aggression, and it’s going to be not just against Ukraine, but against principles and values that other countries are going to join us,” said Goloborodko. “As a matter of fact, Americans are joining right now. There are so many phone calls from people who live in the United States who have no Ukrainian heritage, and they say, ‘We want to go to Ukraine, and we want to fight together with our brother and sister Ukrainians for democracy. We want to fight against evil Putin regime.’”
According to Goloborodko, Ukraine as a country welcomes everyone who wants to go to war with Ukraine against Putin’s regime. For those who have been calling and emailing, the Ukrainian consulate in Seattle refers them to the military attaché for further guidance and logistics.
“The only threat that Putin has for himself — not for Russia, but for himself — that people of Russia will see the prosperous country of Ukraine and they will not be satisfied with the conditions in which they live in Russia, so they will try to overthrow his regime,” said Goloborodko.
The Honorary Consul talked about how Ukraine wishes to join NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) to work together toward shared principles and values.
“Right now, our people are fighting not just for our country and not just for our land, but also for peaceful skies above other countries — Baltics, Poland, and I will even say United States because there are articles in Russian media that come to the surface about which country Alaska should belong to,” said Goloborodko.
‘We stand in line to get enlisted’
While Ukrainian women, children and the elderly seek safety in nations bordering Ukraine, male civilians are staying back to enlist in the military and go to combat against Russian forces.
“I spoke to my friends, I spoke to my classmates today [March 1], and I ask them if they are being enlisted and they say, ‘We stand in line to get enlisted — we haven’t been enlisted yet, but we’re ready,’” said Goloborodko. “It’s not that people of Ukraine are sitting and watching when the army’s fighting. People of Ukraine are taking weapons and protecting their homeland.”
According to Goloborodko, Putin believed this war would be a fight of army vs. army, and outcomes have not been what Putin expected.
“They can’t win this war. Our intelligence tells us that Putin is upset with his army, upset with his military — that they couldn’t invade all of Ukraine yet, and that they couldn’t capture Kyiv, and that Ukrainians are fighting,” said Goloborodko. “Russians are not motivated because Russian soldiers, somewhere in the back of their mind, they understand that what they’re doing is wrong, and we need them to stand up against evil regime of Putin and tell him, ‘Enough is enough.’”
As of March 2, Russian losses include 5,840 troops; 30 planes; 31 helicopters; and 211 tanks, among others, according to estimates by Ukraine’s Armed Forces. On March 2, the International Criminal Court Presidency assigned the situation in Ukraine to Pre-Trial Chamber II, so that Putin will be investigated and possibly charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity.
During President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address, he brought up how the Department of Justice was launching a task force to go after Russian oligarchs and their assets by “joining with our European allies to find and seize your yachts, your luxury apartments, your private jets. We are coming for your ill-begotten gains,” said Biden.
As of March 2, Putin and Russian troops are refusing to back down from attacking Ukraine.
“As long as we breathe, as long as our hearts beat, we’re going to protect our land,” said Goloborodko.