Horrific Ukraine images can bring one to tears

BABE’S EYE VIEW FROM WASHINGTON D.C. - Ambassador B. Romualdez - The Philippine Star

Undoubtedly, the situation in Ukraine is rapidly deteriorating, with civilians now being targeted by Russian forces. The latest horror story is the bombing of a children’s and maternity hospital in the city of Mariupol, and people could only watch in shock at the footages of emergency responders and soldiers scrambling to evacuate the wounded from the wreckage – hospital workers, children, mothers with babies and pregnant women.

It was carnage, with bloodied bodies and faces, women helplessly crying and children looking confused and dazed at the chaos around them. Many people told me they are “having difficulty erasing these images” from their minds. Reports said that among the dead are three babies born just last year, with the number of casualties estimated at more than 1,200 since the invasion by Russian forces. These images remind me of an email I received not too long ago from this young lady who described her heartache and pain after seeing the death of so many people whom she knew during the Zamboanga siege. She wrote: “The pain will never go away… every day when I look out my window, even with the sun shining, I see drops of rain but actually it’s the tears in my eyes.”

The increasing number of Ukrainian refugees – estimated at two million – is also creating a major problem because of the difficulty in sustaining the response to a large humanitarian crisis, the likes of which had not been seen in Europe since World War II, according to history experts. The UN Refugee Agency says the number of displaced Ukrainians could reach four million by July. While communities in Poland, Hungary, Moldova and Romania have been welcoming, the help needed would be huge for housing, food, medical assistance and financial resources for the refugees to be able to rebuild their lives in a foreign country.

The isolation of Russia is also becoming more apparent, with the attack on the maternity hospital fueling outrage and condemnation from people all over the world, including Russians who have expressed their disappointment and disapproval of the invasion, saying they do not condone the violence and certainly do not want war. In fact, anti-war demonstrations and protests are spreading across many cities in Russia, with more than 5,000 arrested last Sunday by the police who beat the protesters with truncheons and shot them with stun guns. According to reports, over 13,000 people have been arrested since the protests began on Feb. 24 – the day Russia mounted a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

While Russia is their key ally, China is also becoming a bit wary about the situation in Ukraine, with president Xi Jinping saying it was painful to see the “flames of war reignited in Europe.” During the US Senate Intelligence Committee hearing last Thursday, CIA director William Burns said President Xi is “unsettled by what he’s seeing, partly because his own intelligence doesn’t appear to have told him what was going to happen.”

Chinese leaders are also concerned about the reputational damage to China because of the association with Russia, as they also have to protect ties to Europe particularly on the economic aspect. “President Xi is probably a bit unsettled as he watches the way in which President Putin has driven Americans and Europeans more closely together and strengthened the Transatlantic alliance in ways that would have been a little bit hard to imagine before the invasion began,” Director Burns said.

Although China has voiced criticism of the sanctions against Russia, it also does not want to risk its economy as Chinese companies operating in the US or Europe are also vulnerable to secondary sanctions if their parent companies maintain business ties with Russia, which has been levied the primary sanctions.

The biggest threat is the fact that Russia has a large arsenal of nuclear weapons, with President Putin referencing this when he put Russia’s nuclear forces on high alert, saying that “no one should have any doubts that a direct attack on our country will lead to the destruction and horrible consequences for any potential aggressor.”

This is certainly a matter of grave concern not only for the US and NATO member-nations but all of us in this world. While people are hoping and praying for the conflict not to spill over to other parts of Europe, many are also thinking back to what happened during World War II when Hitler attacked Poland and extended to the rest of Europe, eventually spilling over Asia, with the formation of the Axis alliance that was bent on military conquest and territorial expansion.

President Duterte described Putin as “suicidal,” and could “lose it” if his back is pushed against the wall. Putin had said in the past that if anyone tries to destroy Russia, they will respond, and it would be catastrophic for humanity and the whole world. This is certainly very disturbing, to say the least. I expressed this fear during our lunch meeting the other day with US senators Jim Risch and Bob Menendez.

“Why do we need a world if there is no Russia in it?” Putin had said – the very same words uttered by a Russian state television host who warned: “Our submarines are capable of launching 500 warheads, guaranteeing the destruction of the US and all NATO countries.”

We should be well aware that we could get sucked into the conflict whether we like it or not. If ever that time comes – although we fervently pray it will not – it would certainly spell the end of the world. No one will survive.

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