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Ukraine: How The Current Crisis Started

Ukraine: How The Current Crisis Started

Russian President Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine is on its sixth day - but what sparked his 'special military operation'?

Russian President Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine is on its sixth day — but what sparked his 'special military operation'?

Russia and Ukraine's tensions date back to the dissolution of the Soviet Union, after which Ukraine regained its independence and former nations under the USSR signed onto the NATO defensive alliance. However, Putin's hardline is drawn at Ukraine's membership, which he said would be a 'direct threat to the security' of the country.

In the eight years preceding the recent escalation, more than 14,000 people lost their lives as a result of the conflict between the two countries, coming between former Ukrainian president Viktor Fedorovych Yanukovych being ousted, the brokering of the Minsk II peace agreement — essentially obliterated by Putin's actions — and the six-figure build-up of Russian troops around Ukraine's border.

Vladimir Putin (Alamy)
Vladimir Putin (Alamy)

Concerns over Putin's invasion can be tracked back to November last year, when satellite imagery revealed more than 100,000 Russian troops massed along Ukraine's border, along with tanks and other military hardware.

One month later, and world leaders began asserting their opposition to the idea, with US President Joe Biden warning that sanctions would be put into place should any invasion take place.

This led to Russia making expansive demands over the West's presence in eastern Europe, outlining that NATO must deny membership to Ukraine and other ex-Soviet countries (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are part of the alliance). At this point, White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan conceded, 'It’s very difficult to see agreements getting consummated if we’re continuing to see an escalatory cycle,' as per Al Jazeera.

Joe Biden (Alamy)
Joe Biden (Alamy)

Over the course of the next month into the new year, Biden held conversations with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to pledge 'decisive action' if Putin ordered an invasion, while diplomatic talks between Moscow and the US in Geneva failed to yield any positive developments.

By the end of January, Biden warned of a likely invasion in February, with NATO putting forces on standby and the US placing 8,500 troops on alert for deployment, in addition to the evacuation of non-essential personnel in Kyiv embassies.

Volodymyr Zelensky (Alamy)
Volodymyr Zelensky (Alamy)

During this period, fears of an invasion were downplayed by both Zelenskyy and Putin, with the former insisting the threat was 'no greater' than usual — even with more Russian troops surrounding the border — and Putin claiming he was open to further talks on the matter.

At a special closed session of the UN Security Council, Russia's UN envoy Vasily Nebenzya slammed the US. 'The discussions about a threat of war is provocative in and of itself. You are almost calling for this. You want it to happen,' she said.

On February 1, Putin deflected concerns over an invasion and criticised the US for neglecting Russia's demands. 'It is already clear that fundamental Russian concerns ended up being ignored,' he said.

The next two weeks brought a number of talks, including between UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov — described as a 'conversation between a mute and a deaf person' — and Biden and Putin, to no avail.

On February 22, Putin formally recognised the so-called separatist 'People's Republics' of Donetsk and Luhansk, and 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'.

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.'

Two days later, Putin announced a 'special military operation' and invaded Ukraine, essentially declaring war on the country. After six days, Ukraine's defence ministry has claimed killing more than 5,000 Russian troops, while the UN estimates 136 civilian casualties mostly as a result of 'barbaric' missile strikes — although it's widely speculated the actual death toll could be far higher.

Peace talks between Russia and Ukraine are expected to continue tomorrow, despite further threats of missile strikes on Kyiv.

If you would like to donate to the Red Cross Emergency Appeal, which will help provide food, medicines and basic medical supplies, shelter and water to those in Ukraine, click here for more information

Featured Image Credit: Alamy

Topics: Russia, Ukraine, World News