| Last updated
Today, February 24, Russian president Vladimir Putin ordered troops across the border in a 'full-scale invasion' into Ukraine.
Previously, tensions continued to escalate between Russia and Ukraine as Putin ordered troops into two rebel-held, 'independent' regions.
At the time, it was estimated there were more than 190,000 Russian troops along the border of Ukraine. On February 21, Putin recognised the independence of the separatist, so-called people's republics of Donetsk and Luhansk.
Putin insisted they were 'peacekeeping' troops, but Prime Minister Boris Johnson has equated it to 'a renewed invasion of the country', with US President Joe Biden warning at the time that Russia will attack 'in the coming days'.
Now, this warning has come to pass.
In an address to the nation today, Johnson acknowledged a 'vast invasion' is underway and said the world 'cannot allow that freedom' of Ukraine to be 'snuffed out'.
He said the UK will 'do what more we can in the days ahead', including agreeing a 'massive package of economic sanctions'.
He added: 'Our mission is clear: diplomatically, politically, economically and, eventually, militarily, this hideous and barbaric venture of Putin must end in failure.'
Ukraine regained its independence in 1991 following the dissolution of the Soviet Union. In the 2000s, defensive alliance NATO added Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, nations formerly under the USSR Communist regime. However, when it finally announced intentions to invite Ukraine into the fold, it was a step too far, with Putin describing the notion as a 'hostile act' and citing Ukraine's cultural, political and linguistic ties to the east.
This messaging was reiterated by Putin in this week's speech. 'Ukraine never had a tradition of genuine statehood,' he said. 'If Ukraine was to join NATO it would serve as a direct threat to the security of Russia.'
In February 2014, former Ukrainian president Viktor Fedorovych Yanukovych was ousted as part of the revolution after rejecting the Ukrainian-European Association Agreement. Moscow took retaliatory action by annexing Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula, as well as seizing government buildings across the Donbas regions and orchestrating an insurgency amid conflict with Ukrainian troops and volunteer battalions.
Over the course of the ensuing year, the regions held a popular vote to establish independence. Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down by a Russia-supplied missile over Ukraine, killing all 298 people on-board – however, Moscow denies any involvement.
An initial peace deal fell apart, with Ukrainian forces suffering a major defeat in early 2015. The next peace agreement, Minsk II, brokered by France and Germany and signed by the leaders of the two warring nations, ordered a ceasefire and vast restorative action for each side. This included Ukrainian control over its border returned to the government after getting self-rule, holding local elections monitored by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and some degree of autonomy given to the Donbas region.
This was seen as a victory for the Kremlin, but as a weakening betrayal of Ukraine's national interests.
However, the conflict has never fully come to a halt, and the agreement's implementation has stalled. In addition to several skirmishes over the past eight years, Russia has been accused of stoking violence and engaging in hybrid warfare, utilising cyberattacks and propaganda, to foment motive for an invasion. More than 14,000 people have died as a result of the conflict.
Current Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky previously expressed his disagreement with the Minsk agreement. 'Like it or don't like it, it's your duty, my beauty,' Putin responded. However, Zelensky also played down fears of a full-scale invasion, claiming the threat is no greater than it's been for several months. 'Russia cannot stop Ukraine from getting closer with NATO and has no right to have any say in relevant discussions,' Ukraine's Foreign Ministry said.
VIDEO: 'We are not afraid of anything or anyone.'— AFP News Agency (@AFP) February 22, 2022
"We are on our own land. We are not afraid of anything or anyone", says Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky after Russia ordered its troops into eastern Ukraine pic.twitter.com/aYp50XXUzh
The long and short of it is this: Putin believes Ukraine shouldn't join NATO as it would form an existential threat to Russia, and accused the US and NATO of 'unashamedly turning Ukraine into a theatre of war'.
Russia's grip on Ukraine has been tightening exponentially over the past year, amassing thousands of troops on its border and continually prompting concern from foreign nations. Putin claimed he was open to a diplomatic route out of the standoff, but his recognition of the 'republics' has called his true intentions into question, directly defying western allies.
During an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council, chaired by Russia, US ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said 'the consequences of Russia's actions will be dire – across Ukraine, Europe and the globe', and described Putin's recognition of Donetsk and Luhansk as 'the basis for Russia's attempt to create a pretext for a further invasion of Ukraine'.
In his hour-long address, Putin said, 'There is only one goal – to restrain the development of Russia. And they will do it, as they did before. Even without any formal pretext at all. Just because we exist, and we will never compromise our sovereignty, national interests and our values.
'I want to say clearly and directly that in the current situation, when our proposals for an equal dialogue on fundamental issues have actually remained unanswered by the United States and NATO, when the level of threats to our country is increasing significantly, Russia has every right to take retaliatory measures to ensure its own security. That is exactly what we will do.'
Earlier this week, February 22, Putin said the Minsk agreements 'no longer exist... they were killed long before we recognised the independence of the republics', and said the 'best decision that Ukraine could take would be to renounce its NATO membership ambitions'.
In a statement today, February 24, Putin said his goal was the demilitarisation and 'denazification' of Ukraine. Western allies, along with Kyiv, have rejected Putin's claims of neo-Nazism in Ukraine.
I am appalled by the horrific events in Ukraine and I have spoken to President Zelenskyy to discuss next steps.— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) February 24, 2022
President Putin has chosen a path of bloodshed and destruction by launching this unprovoked attack on Ukraine.
The UK and our allies will respond decisively.
The Russian president announced a 'special military operation' and repeated unfounded claims of years of genocide within Ukraine, warning that any interference from outside powers would see an 'instant' response.
World leaders have since responded to Putin. 'President Putin has chosen a premeditated war that will bring a catastrophic loss of life and human suffering. Russia alone is responsible for the death and destruction this attack will bring, and the United States and its Allies and partners will respond in a united and decisive way. The world will hold Russia accountable,' US president Biden said.
'We are joined in our outrage by friends and allies around the world. We will work with them, for however long it takes, to ensure that the sovereignty and independence of Ukraine is restored.
'Because this act of wanton and reckless aggression is an attack not just on Ukraine. It is an attack on democracy and freedom in eastern Europe and around the world,' UK prime minister Boris Johnson said.
If you have a story you want to tell, send it to UNILAD via [email protected]
Chosen for YouChosen for You
Most Read StoriesMost Read