Yes, it’s still happening: Refocusing on the war in Ukraine

Graphic by Sam Farbman

In early 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine. Though Russia was certain of a swift victory over their neighbor, Ukraine has proved resilient over the last seven months. Reports on the war have been somewhat inconsistent, hampered by Russian authorities’ efforts to restrict the flow of information, at times explicitly targeting journalists.

We have certainly seen and heard reports of the horrors that the people of Ukraine have been subjected to, but recent reports coming out of Ukraine have been positive and encouraging, with strategic gains surrounding Kharkiv. Since the beginning of the war, Ukrainians have remained hopeful, drawing support from people all over the world calling for an end to the violence. Since then, however, media coverage on the war in Ukraine has largely left the public eye, making people question if the war is still going on. CNN was recently granted exclusive access to the town of Kupiansk, and its reports tell the story of a nation that still needs all the support and awareness it can get. 

While I am advising caution, the optimism for Ukraine is certainly warranted. Early on, Ukraine was able to fend off attacks on their capital city of Kyiv. Their stubborn stand against the invasion showed the world that, against all odds, this would not be a short-term conflict. More recently, Ukraine’s acquisition of Kupiansk and other areas around Kharkiv is a significant move. Russian forces had been well established there for months, and its proximity to the Russian border makes it a key foothold. This is also symbolically important — Russia’s inability to hold a city so close to its border makes it look militarily weak on the world stage. Ukraine has shown that it is a strong, united country capable of taking on Russia, but although its victories are encouraging, this war is far from over. 

In the first few months after the invasion, social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram were flooded with posts about the war in Ukraine. Due to its convenience and reach, social media has a sizable influence on peoples’ opinions and beliefs about the war. Some people get more of their information from TikTok than the evening news.

With limited content filtering and fact checking on social media, this shift in the sourcing of information about war is cause for concern as both Russia and Ukraine have tried to push their narratives on social media to guide the public perception of the war. Russian misinformation campaigns have been well-documented, but Ukrainians, too, have started to label Russian soldiers as uninspired and cowardly to rally support for their cause. I believe these very acts may be contributing to the decline of attention on the war.

Social media shows only small bits and pieces of any story, and people construct their own narrative by filling in the gaps or latching onto whatever narrative is most popular. Many assume that viral videos of tanks being destroyed or a few Russian soldiers surrendering means that Russia is being easily defeated, when that is not necessarily the case. 

Amid the flurry of attention that the war in Ukraine received, people have hastily assumed they understood the full situation. The war in Ukraine still needs our attention, and we have new insight to support that. 

CNN got closer to the conflict than any other media outlet, and their impression of the state of the war should catch everyone’s attention. While Ukraine did retake Kupiansk, CNN found that the city is still under constant attack. Russian forces did retreat, but continued to fight for the terrority, targeting Ukrainians with constant artillery strikes. Kupiansk is far from secure. While retaking cities is important progress for Ukraine, we are not getting the full story and should not think that the war is over.

A country, its people and its sovereignty are under attack. Instead of looking for the next global issue to take a stand on, people need to lend some attention to an ongoing conflict that — despite its relative absence from the realm of social media — has not disappeared. Ukraine needs the world’s support right now.


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