Russia’s long feared invasion of Ukraine continues to rage after Vladimir Putin announced a “special military operation” against Russia in the early hours of February 24. Neighbors after eight years of battle in Donbas.
While Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky set an example on the streets of Kyiv and tirelessly rallied the international community for support, his people put up an impressive resistance with maximum restraint on the Russian army.
Meanwhile, the attackers continue to use brutal siege tactics to besiege the country’s cities and launch intense bombardment operations, a strategy previously seen in Chechnya and Syria.
People like Kharkiv and Mariupol have been attacked by Russian missiles seeking gradual territorial acquisition in the east and south of Ukraine, targeting residential buildings, hospitals and nurseries, deliberately targeting civilians and committing war crimes.
Prime Minister Zelensky’s initial appeal for NATO to implement a no-fly zone remains unanswered as the West fears that such action would be interpreted as a Russian provocation and that the alliance would lead to a much larger war against Eastern Europe.
But US President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres have all condemned Moscow’s “unprovoked and unjustified” attacks and promised to “take responsibility”. Sanctions against Russian banks, corporations and oligarchs while supplying Ukraine with additional weapons, hardware and defense funds.
But its allies also face criticism that it is not enough to support more than 5 million refugees due to conflicts that have fled their home countries to neighboring countries such as Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Romania and Moldova.
Tensions in the region, which began in December when Russian troops rallied on the Ukrainian border, actually escalated in the last week of February, when President Putin moved to officially recognize the pro-Russian defection zone of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR). And the Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) is an independent state.
This allowed him to move military resources into the area in case of an oncoming attack under the guise of extending protection to his allies.
That development meant months of frantic diplomatic negotiations that US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, and British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss sought to avoid catastrophe.
But what are the core issues of the conflict, where did it all start and how might a crisis develop?
How did the crisis start?
Going back to 2014 gives more context to the current situation.
Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea. Russia annexed Crimea after Russian-friendly President Viktor Yanukovych was overthrown in mass protests.
A few weeks later, Russia weighed in behind two separatist rebel movements in Donbas, Ukraine’s eastern industrial hub. Donbass was eventually not fully endorsed by the international community, but saw pro-Russian rebels in Donetsk and Luhansk declare independent states of the DPR and LPR.
More than 14,000 people died in the fighting that continued during the interim period that ravaged the area.
Ukraine and the West have accused Russia of sending troops and weapons to support the rebels, but Moscow has denied the charges, claiming that Russians who joined the separatists did so voluntarily.
The 2015 peace treaty, the Minsk II Accord, was mediated by France and Germany to end large-scale fighting. The 13-item agreement gave Ukraine autonomy in separatist territories, grants amnesty to rebels, and Ukraine fully reclaimed its borders with Russia in rebel-controlled territories.
However, the agreement is very complex. Because Moscow continues to assert that it is not a party to the dispute and therefore not bound by the terms.
Paragraph 10 of the agreement calls for the withdrawal of all foreign armed groups and military equipment from the disputed DPR and LPR. Ukraine said this meant Russia’s military, but Moscow had previously denied that the country had its own military.
A surge in truce violations in the east last year and the concentration of Russian troops near Ukraine sparked fears of an imminent new war, but tensions have eased as Moscow withdrew most of its troops after an April maneuver.
What is the current situation?
In early December 2021, U.S. intelligence officials decided that Russia planned to deploy up to 175,000 troops near the Ukrainian border in case of a possible invasion, which they think could begin in early 2022.
Kyiv similarly complained that Moscow had deployed more than 90,000 troops near its borders in January, warning that “massive expansion” was possible.
The commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian army also said that the Russian army has about 2,100 soldiers in the eastern region controlled by rebels in Ukraine, and that Russian military officers are all commanders of the separatist forces.
Moscow has previously repeatedly denied the presence of troops in eastern Ukraine and has not provided details on the number and location of the troops, saying it has nothing to do with anyone deploying them on its territory.
Meanwhile, Russia accused Ukraine of violating Minsk II and criticized the West for not encouraging Ukraine to comply with its terms.
Amid the poignant circumstances, Putin has rejected four-party talks with Ukraine, France and Germany, saying it is useless because Ukraine has decided not to abide by the 2015 agreement.
Moscow also strongly criticized the U.S. and NATO allies for providing weapons and conducting joint exercises to Ukraine, saying Ukrainian hawks encourage attempts to reclaim rebel-controlled areas by force.
Putin is known to have deep resentment over what he thinks NATO has gradually moved eastward after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989, and he has decided to block Ukraine from joining the ranks.
What could happen next?
With President Putin’s announcement on February 24, the worst-case scenario has now come true.
The Kremlin had routinely denied that it had plans to invade before, a claim that few believed, but it turned out to be with good reason.
Even after the Russian president’s declaration of war, the Russian envoy to the United Nations denied that Moscow had no dissatisfaction with the Ukrainian people.
It turned out to be completely false.
Western leaders united in condemnation have made Russia inferior on the world stage. Their sanctions have promised to shrink the Russian economy, which, despite Putin’s best efforts to silence the critical media and early protests, could ultimately put new pressure on Putin at home. Sympathy.
Meanwhile, former Vice President Biden has moved to convince the international community that Russia will be held accountable for his actions.
“Russia is solely responsible for the death and destruction this attack will bring,” he said.
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