Russia has started a deadly air, land, and sea attack on Ukraine, a 44-million-strong European democracy. For months, President Vladimir Putin claimed that he would invade Ukraine, but then he ripped up a peace agreement and sent troops across the country’s north, east, and south borders.
As the death toll rises, he is now accused of shattering Europe’s calm, and what happens next might put the continent’s entire security apparatus in jeopardy.
Why have Russian troops attacked and where have they assaulted?
The initial targets were airports and military offices near cities across Ukraine, including Kyiv’s important Boryspil international airport.
Then, from neighboring Belarus in the north and Crimea in the south, tanks and infantry poured into Ukraine in the north-east, near Kharkiv, a city of 1.4 million people; and in the east, near Luhansk. Russian troops landed in Ukraine’s major port cities of Odesa and Mariupol, as well as a vital airbase just outside Kyiv.
President Putin went on television moments before the invasion began, claiming that Russia could not feel “secure, develop, or exist” because of the “continuous threat” posed by contemporary Ukraine.
Many of his claims were erroneous or unreasonable. He said that his purpose was to safeguard those who had been bullied or subjected to genocide, as well as to “demilitarize and de-Nazify” Ukraine. There has been no genocide in Ukraine, which is a thriving democracy governed by a Jewish president. “How could I be a Nazi?” asked Volodymr Zelensky, who compared Russia’s invasion to Nazi Germany’s invasion during WWII.
Since Ukraine’s pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovych, was overthrown in 2014 after months of protests against his government, President Putin has regularly accused the country of being taken over by extremists. Russia replied by taking Crimea’s southern area and inciting a rebellion in the east, supporting separatists against Ukrainian soldiers.
He began sending large numbers of Russian troops close to Ukraine’s borders in late 2021. Then, last week, he canceled a 2015 peace agreement for the east and declared rebel-controlled areas independent.
Russia has long opposed Ukraine’s accession to the European Union and NATO, the Western military alliance. He accused Nato of endangering “our historic future as a nation” as he announced Russia’s invasion.
How far is Russia willing to go?
Russia has hesitated to declare whether it intends to destabilize Ukraine’s democratically elected government, despite its belief that Ukraine should be “liberated, cleansed of Nazis.” Mr Putin stated that “those who committed multiple heinous crimes against civilians” would be brought to justice.
It was a thinly veiled hint, and by invading Belarus and taking Antonov airport near Kyiv’s outskirts, there’s little question that the capital is in his sights.
He had focused his attention on the east in the days leading up to the invasion, when up to 200,000 men were within striking distance of Ukraine’s borders.
He had previously decided that the Russian proxy separatist districts of Luhansk and Donetsk were no longer part of Ukraine by recognising them as independent. Then he admitted that he agreed with their claims to far more Ukrainian land. The self-proclaimed people’s republics only encompass about a third of Ukraine’s Luhansk and Donetsk regions, but the rebels want the remainder as well.
This military operation is initiated by a NATO member. Is it planned for us to go to war with the Nato bloc? Has anyone considered that possibility? Not at all, it appears.