Ora Szekely was shocked when Russian President Vladimir Putin launched an invasion of Ukraine in February. What has not surprised the professor of political science, however, is the Russian army’s brutal tactics that have been on display in the weeks since.
As part of her fieldwork across the Middle East, Szekely has researched Russia’s involvement in the civil war in Syria in 2015 and its targeting of civilians.
“I don’t want to let the Assad regime off the hook here. But the conduct of the Russian military, the approach of causing maximum damage to civilians as a way to break civilian resistance and remove rebel control of the territory, was really just like extraordinarily brutal, and watching their behavior in Ukraine, it’s more of the same,” Szekely said during a recent interview for the Clark podcast “Challenge. Change.”
An organization called the Syrian Archive has shared videos of military activity, especially atrocities against civilians, on platforms like YouTube.
“The Syrian government had also been using its air force to target civilians in this area. But I think it’s worth noting, particularly in the context of what we’re now seeing in Ukraine, that this was clearly a matter of policy by the Russian military,” she says.
From Feb. 23 to April 20, Ukraine has endured 162 attacks on health care facilities and personnel, resulting in 73 deaths and 52 injuries, according to the World Health Organization. Such attacks have been posted online, particularly on the app TikTok.
Szekely just completed a book project on the civil war in Syria and is working on a paper about the ways social media has shaped choices made by different factions.