On February 24, 2022, the Russian military crossed the internationally recognized borders of Ukraine under the orders of a so-called "special military operation" drawn up by Russian president Vladimir Putin. The plan was to forcibly bring Ukraine — a sovereign nation since 1991 — back into the control of Russia's historically held territories. The Kremlin estimated it could overwhelm Kyiv, its government, and citizens in a number of days.
One year later, Ukraine is still fighting, its government remains independent, and global geopolitics has undergone a seismic shift in response to Russia's imperial war.
Serhiy Leshchenko, an alumnus of the 2013 cohort of the Draper Hills Summer Fellows program at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies’ Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law at Stanford University, has been in Ukraine throughout the war, working directly with the Office of the President of Ukraine and seeing first-hand the destruction and devastation that has been wrought across the country. As part of the Freeman Spogli Institute's special coverage of the first year of Putin's invasion, he joined FSI Director Michael McFaul on the World Class podcast to report on what a year of war looks like from inside Ukraine.
"It's complicated," Leshchenko tells McFaul. "It's really important to say that all the plans of Putin were not fulfilled and were not complete. But at the same time Ukraine has shown that we're able to fight the second-most powerful army in the world. And this is a service Ukraine has provided to democracy because it's not just about our territorial integrity, but about the values which your state is also based on."
Listen below to their full conversation about the war, the future, and what support Ukraine still needs to secure itself as a free, democratic state in Europe.