THUNDER BAY -- Walter Warywoda says Russian president Vladimir Putin has been given far too much leeway on the international stage, emboldening his country’s unprovoked assault on Ukraine.
He shouldn’t be allowed to get away with attacking peaceful people, said Warywoda, the president of the Thunder Bay branch of the League of Ukrainian Canadians.
“We can only pray for the people of Ukraine and for democracies more broadly,” he said, adding he's exasperated, emotional and feeling helpless on Thursday morning.
The world has been anticipating a Russian invasion of the former Soviet republic for weeks, as Putin’s armies massed on the Ukrainian border.
Putin has said his country does not plan to occupy Ukraine, only to demilitarize it, and his troops swiftly moved overnight to wipe out the country’s air defence mechanisms.
However, Putin also had a stern warning for the west.
“Whoever tries to impede us, let alone create threats for our country and its people, must know that the Russian response will be immediate and lead to the consequences you have never seen in history,” the Russian dictator said.
Reaction from around the world has been swift, though stops short of intervening militarily.
“Canada condemns in the strongest possible terms Russia’s egregious attack on Ukraine. These unprovoked actions are a clear further violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. They are also in violation of Russia’s obligations under international law and the Charter of the United Nations,” said Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
“Canada calls on Russia to immediately cease all hostile and provocative actions against Ukraine and withdraw all military and proxy forces from the country. Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity must be respected and the Ukrainian people must be free to determine their own future.”
At least 40 people on the ground in Ukraine have been killed, including seven in a missile attack on Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital.
Russia has deployed forces in the north and south of the country, and are attempting to seize the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, according to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky.
“Our defenders are sacrificing their lives so that the tragedy of 1986 will not be repeated,” Zelensky tweeted.
He added the invasion is a declaration of war against all of Europe.
As the invasion continues, countries around the world are contemplating next steps. United States President Joe Biden is expected to disclose new measures at a news conference scheduled for 12:30 p.m. on Thursday, which could include restrictions on financial institutions and sanctions on Russian oligarchs.
Biden, Trudeau and the rest of the G7 are meeting at this hour to discuss a joint response.
Among the possibilities is cutting Russia out of the SWIFT, global payment network, which would make it all but impossible to send money into or out of Russia, which could cripple the country’s economy.
Warywoda said the West was too complacent and gave Russia too much power, which they used to their own advantage.
“In typical KGB style, they have been allowed to take advantage of democratic institutions to put forward their nefarious, egregious causes,” said Warywoda.
“It’s bold and it’s uncalled for.”