Posted in Behind the News

Using the word 'war' in Ukraine

, by John Daniszewski

There has been some discussion about whether to term the fighting in Ukraine a “war.” The AP is using the word, and here is why:

The definition of war is quite broad: ''Open armed conflict between countries or between factions within the same country,” or,Any active hostility, contention, or struggle; conflict.''

Russia has preferred to call it a “special military operation” with what it says are limited goals. It actually has banned Russian media from calling it a war.

But the fighting in Ukraine has been both geographically widespread and locally intense, involving missile and rocket barrages, tank advances, gun battles and even street fighting. It is taking place between two countries -- one that has invaded to achieve its goals, and one that believes it is defending its homeland and sees itself as fighting for its very existence.

The number of casualties is unknown. Russia has not disclosed any figures, and Ukraine has put the number of its civilian casualties at about 200 and claims that as many as several thousand members of the Russian armed forces have died.

Cars are stopped at a roadblock set by civil defensemen at a road leading to central Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday, Feb. 28, 2022. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

All these reports are unreliable, but it seems likely that there are significant casualties. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of people have become refugees and even more have been displaced within Ukraine. In a few short days, AP journalists have gathered images of damaged buildings, burned vehicles and uniformed corpses.

While it remains appropriate to refer to the fighting that began Thursday as an attack or an invasion, we believe that all the evidence of the past few days means that these two countries are at war. Therefore, we may use the word “war” in copy, in slugs, in captions and in other AP content.