Russia has started a deadly air, land, and sea war on Ukraine, a 44-million-strong European democracy. Its soldiers are bombarding city centres and closing in on Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, causing a massive refugee flight.
For months, President Vladimir Putin denied that he would invade Ukraine, but then he ripped up a peace pact. Putin went ahead to launch “Putin’s war,” sending troops into the country’s north, east, and south.
As the death toll rises, Russia’s president is accused of having shattered European peace. What happens next might put the continent’s whole security system in jeopardy.
Why have Russian troops attacked?
President Vladimir Putin warned on February 24 in a pre-dawn TV speech that Russia could not feel “secure, develop, or exist” because of what he believed was a persistent danger from contemporary Ukraine.
Airports and military offices were assaulted immediately. This was followed by the arrival of tanks and troops from Russia, Russian-annexed Crimea, and its ally Belarus. Warplanes are now bombing major cities.
Russia refuses to use the phrases “war” or “invasion,” despite the fact that many of its leaders’ arguments were wrong or unreasonable.
He claimed his goal was to protect people subjected to bullying and genocide and aim for the “demilitarization and de-Nazification” of Ukraine. There has been no genocide in Ukraine: it is a vibrant democracy, led by a president who is Jewish.
“How could I be a Nazi?” said Volodymyr Zelensky, who likened Russia’s onslaught to Nazi Germany’s invasion in World War Two. Ukraine’s chief rabbi and the Auschwitz Memorial have also rejected Russia’s slur.
President Putin has frequently accused Ukraine of being taken over by extremists, ever since its pro-Russian president; Viktor Yanukovych, was ousted in 2014 after months of protests against his rule.
Russia then retaliated by seizing the southern region of Crimea and triggering a rebellion in the east. Russia also backed separatists who have fought Ukrainian forces in a war that has claimed 14,000 lives.
Late in 2021, Russia began deploying big numbers of troops close to Ukraine’s borders, while repeatedly denying it was going to attack. Then Mr Putin scrapped a 2015 peace deal for the east and recognised areas under rebel control as an independent.
Russia has long resisted Ukraine’s move towards the European Union and the West’s defensive military alliance, Nato. Announcing Russia’s invasion, he accused Nato of threatening “our historic future as a nation”.
How far is Russia willing to go?
Russia is clearly attempting to take the country’s major cities and destabilize Ukraine’s democratically elected government. “The adversary has classified me as target number one; my family is target number two,” President Zelensky added.
Russia’s stated goal is to liberate Ukraine from persecution and “clear it of Nazis.” Mr Putin has spoken of bringing to justice “those who perpetrated multiple horrific crimes against people” under this false narrative of a fascist-run Ukraine since 2014.
His long-term plans for Ukraine remain a mystery. He denies attempting to conquer Ukraine and dismisses a January UK charge that he was planning to install a pro-Kremlin puppet. According to one unsubstantiated intelligence assessment, he wants to divide the country in half.
He faces fierce opposition from hostile people, but he has demonstrated that he is willing to attack residential areas in order to achieve his objectives.
Although Russia’s Baltic neighbours face no immediate threat, Nato has reinforced its defences just in case.
Prior to the invasion, Russia’s public attention was always on the eastern territories controlled by Russian-backed rebels. However, this changed as President Putin acknowledged their independence.
He not only stated that they were no longer part of Ukraine, but he also stated that he supported their claims to considerably more Ukrainian land. The self-proclaimed people’s republics control less than a third of the Donetsk and Luhansk areas, and the insurgents want the remainder as well.