Analysis & Opinions - The Conversation

Calling the War in Ukraine a 'Tragedy' Shelters its Perpetrators from Blame and Responsibility

| Oct. 05, 2023

Russia's war against Ukraine continues to cause unspeakable, unimaginable suffering. By now, the word "tragedy" is firmly installed in the lexicon of the war and has become almost a cliche.

Journalists record tragedies in Ukraine in their many heartbreaking manifestations. Marking the first anniversary of the war in February 2023, U.S. President Joe Biden said, "This war was never a necessity; it's a tragedy."

The label of "tragedy" is liberally applied to most every development in this war. Russia's breach of the Kakhovka dam on June 6, 2023, and the humanitarian and ecological disaster it caused was "the latest tragedy," according to an Associated Press headline.

That "latest" was not the last: On June 27, a Russian missile strike on a pizzeria in Kramatorsk killed 12, among them Viktoria Amelina, a 37-year-old Ukrainian writer and researcher of Russian war crimes. Joining an outpouring of anguish and grief on social media, one commentator wrote of Russia's deliberate targeting of Ukrainian civilians: "What Russia is doing is absolutely pointless, which makes it all the more tragic."

Many more tragedies followed: the destruction of Odesa's port infrastructure and UNESCO-protected Transfiguration Cathedral, a missile strike on an apartment building in Lviv in July and a massive missile attack on a number of Ukrainian cities in September. On October 5, a Russian missile strike in northeastern Ukraine reportedly killed 51 people attending a memorial service, which was "a terrible tragedy," in the words of Ukrainian Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko....

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Budjeryn, Mariana.“Calling the War in Ukraine a 'Tragedy' Shelters its Perpetrators from Blame and Responsibility.” The Conversation, October 5, 2023.

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