NEW YORK (February 24, 2022) — At 4AM local time, Russian troops invaded and launched a full-scale assault on Ukraine. Missile attacks, artillery bombardment, cyberattacks, troop movements, and tank battles are taking place across the entire country. Official sources report hundreds of casualties, with the death toll certain to rise over the coming days. Journalists in Ukraine report traffic jams as civilians flee cities, long lines at ATMs and gas stations, and packed air raid shelters as Russian missile strikes target densely populated urban areas. The government of Ukraine has declared martial law, is urging Ukrainians to take up arms against the invader, and is calling for a decisive international response.
Ukraine is a sovereign, democratic nation. Ukraine has been engaged in an armed conflict with Russia since 2014, when dictator Vladimir Putin had the Russian military seize Crimea and parts of eastern Ukraine. While facing Russian aggression for the past eight years, Ukraine has developed stronger democratic institutions, become more prosperous, and moved away from Russian-style authoritarianism and corruption.
“Ukrainians have a separate language, culture, and history from Russia, and have made it clear that they have no interest in a Russian-style regime,” said HRF CEO Thor Halvorssen. “Putin considers a democratic Ukraine to be a grave threat to his dictatorial regime simply because it shows ethnic Russians that democracy is a viable alternative. It’s time to make Putin pay for his murderous, self-centered, and imperialistic behavior.”
The international community should see the Russian invasion of Ukraine as both an illegal, unprovoked attack against a sovereign nation, and also as an assault on the entire community of democracies. The following six actions are first steps the international community should immediately take to support Ukraine and deter Vladimir Putin. These conditions should remain in place until freedom is restored in Ukraine.
1. Urgently provide financial support to the Ukrainian government. This is important to allow it to continue functioning as a legitimate government despite a Russian invasion.
2. Recall all Russian ambassadors and expel Russia from international organizations like INTERPOL and the Council of Europe. It is important to isolate Russia diplomatically and cut off its influence in the international community.
3. Sanction the entire Navalny 35, a group of Russian kleptocrats, propagandists and human rights abusers, and their family members. Their assets should be frozen, they should be prevented from traveling to the West, and they should be barred from doing any business with Western companies. Sanctions will incur a cost on their actions and act as a deterrent for other members of the Russian elite.
4. Cut Russia off from the SWIFT international banking system, impose punishing tariffs on Russian banks and exports, and block Russian airlines, sea cargo, and passenger companies. This will impose serious economic costs on Russia, and prevent Russian banks from doing business abroad.
5. Open humanitarian corridors to allow Ukrainian civilians to safely escape the conflict zone and find refuge in neighboring countries.
6. Disclose to the Russian people the bank data and financial intelligence of their political and business elites. It is important to inform the Russian people about the extent of the corrupt nature of the Putin regime.
“Letting Putin crush Ukraine and murder thousands of innocents in a European war of conquest will redefine the world order. So would stopping him,” said HRF Chairman Garry Kasparov. “We choose by action or inaction which world we want to live in.”
The goal of the international community should be to hold Putin’s regime accountable for this unprovoked, illegal war. The greatest consequences of this war will fall on the Ukrainian people, who now fear for their lives and livelihoods. However, people around the world will also suffer from the economic consequences of the Russian invasion. The Putin regime should be held responsible for this war, and any economic consequences that follow from this unprovoked invasion. Legislative bodies, parliaments and congresses in democratic nations around the world should consider writing laws that impose the sanctions outlined above as permanent measures until Ukraine is once again free and democratic.
HRF graphic adaptation of a Putin portrait by Venezuelan artist Rayma Suprani.