In August 2013, a summer evening at a beachside nightclub in the Black Sea resort of Sochi was an intense and exhilarating experience. The crowd erupted with cheers as Russian fighters dominated in a mixed martial arts contest against a “world” team, with scantily dressed women cheering them on with Russian flags. Little did anyone know that six months later, Russia’s president would initiate the country’s path to war by seizing Crimea from Ukraine, leading to a full-scale invasion now entering its third year next week.
The mixed martial arts contest at the nightclub was a spectacle to behold. Russian fighters fought with ferocity and skill, dominating the competition against the “world” team. Scantily dressed women cheered them on with Russian flags, their excitement palpable as they watched their homeland’s fighters emerge victorious time and time again. The crowd erupted into cheers each time the home squad achieved victory, reaching a crescendo when a 44-year-old American fighter was knocked out.
Among those in attendance at this event was none other than Russian President Vladimir Putin himself. He sat in a front-row seat wearing a white dress shirt and surrounded by security guards and political followers. It is unknown what he thought of the outcome of the fight or if he had any inkling of the conflict that would soon engulf his country.
Six months later, in February 2014, Russia would seize Crimea from Ukraine, sparking an international crisis that continues to this day. The full-scale invasion of Ukraine has entered its third year next week, leaving many people wondering what impact this conflict will have on global affairs for years to come.