Russia’s long-standing fears about Ukraine continued to spread as Vladimir Putin announced a “special military operation” against Ukraine in the early hours of February 24, with the Russian leader’s unfounded declaration of the need for “demilitarization and de-Nazification. The “alter” neighbors have been fighting in Donbass for eight years.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has led by example in Kyiv, tirelessly rallying the international community for support, and his people have mounted an impressive resistance, doing everything in their power to stop the Russian armed forces, most recently focusing on retaking Crimea.
Meanwhile, the aggressors continued to employ brutal siege tactics, besieging the country’s cities and heavily shelling them, a strategy previously seen in Chechnya and Syria.
Ukrainian cities such as Kharkiv and Mariupol have been hit by Russian missiles in a quest to gradually gain territory in eastern and southern Ukraine, while attacks on residential buildings, hospitals and nurseries have sparked war on civilians being deliberately targeted and committed Sin anger charges are committed.
Mr Zelensky’s initial call for NATO to impose a no-fly zone remained unanswered, amid fears in the West that such a move would be interpreted as a Russian provocation and draw NATO into a larger war against Eastern Europe.
However, with US President Joe Biden, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, their European counterparts and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres all condemning Moscow’s “unprovoked and unreasonable” attacks and pledging to hold them “responsible”, the West has rolled out several A round of tough economic sanctions on Russian banks, companies and oligarchs, while providing Ukraine with additional arms, hardware and defense funding.
That said, the allies have also been criticized for failing to provide adequate support to the millions of conflict refugees who have fled their homes for neighboring countries such as Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Romania and Moldova.
Tensions in the region began in December, when Russian troops massed along its border with Ukraine, and in the last week of February, when Putin officially recognized the pro-Russian breakaway area of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) The tensions have really escalated and the Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) as an independent state.
This allows him to divert military resources to these areas under the guise of offering protection to allies against an imminent attack.
The development means that the US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Schultz and British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, among others, are working to avert disaster. The Moon Madness diplomatic talks ultimately fell through.
But what are the key questions behind the conflict, where did it all start, and how will the crisis unfold?
How did the crisis start?
Going back to 2014 provides more context for the current situation.
That same year, Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula after the country’s Moscow-friendly President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted in mass protests.
A few weeks later, Russia backed two separatist insurgent movements in the Donbass, the industrial heart of eastern Ukraine, finally seeing pro-Russian insurgents in Donetsk and Luhansk declare the DPR and LPR independent states, despite the complete rejection of them by the international community .
More than 14,000 people were killed in the ongoing fighting that devastated the area.
Both Ukraine and the West have accused Russia of sending troops and weapons to support the insurgents, but Moscow has denied the allegations, saying Russians who joined the separatists did so voluntarily.
France and Germany brokered a 2015 peace deal – the Minsk II deal – to help end large-scale fighting. The 13-point deal calls for Ukraine to grant autonomy to separatist regions and amnesty for rebels, while Ukraine will regain full control of its border with Russia in rebel-held territory.
However, the agreement is complex, as Moscow continues to insist it is not a party to the conflict and therefore not bound by its terms.
In point 10 of the agreement, there is a call for the withdrawal of all foreign armed formations and military equipment from the disputed DPR and LPR. Ukraine said it was referring to troops from Russia, but Moscow has previously denied having any of its own troops in the states.
Last year, a surge in ceasefire violations in the east and a massing of Russian troops near Ukraine heightened fears of a new war looming, but tensions eased when Moscow withdrew most of its troops after exercises in April .
What is the current situation?
In early December 2021, U.S. intelligence officials determined that Russia planned to deploy as many as 175,000 troops near the Ukrainian border in preparation for an invasion they believed could begin in early 2022.
Kyiv also complained about Moscow’s deployment of more than 90,000 troops near the border between the two countries, and warned of a possible “massive escalation” in January.
In addition, the commander-in-chief of Ukraine’s armed forces said that Russia has about 2,100 military personnel in the rebel-held eastern region of Ukraine, and that Russian officers hold all command positions in the separatist forces.
Moscow had earlier repeatedly denied the presence of its troops in eastern Ukraine, provided no details on the number and location of its troops, and said their deployment on its own territory should not involve anyone.
Meanwhile, Russia has accused Ukraine of violating Minsk II and criticized the West for failing to encourage Ukraine to abide by its conditions.
Amid the heated debate, Putin rejected four-way talks with Ukraine, France and Germany, saying it was useless given Ukraine’s refusal to abide by the 2015 deal.
Moscow also strongly criticized the U.S. and its NATO allies for supplying Ukraine with weapons and holding joint exercises, saying it encouraged Ukrainian hawks to try to retake rebel-held areas by force.
Putin is known to be deeply unhappy with what he sees as NATO’s gradual eastward movement since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989, and is determined to prevent Ukraine from entering its ranks.
What might happen next?
With Mr Putin’s February 24 announcement, the worst has now been realized.
The Kremlin has previously frequently denied it had any plans for an invasion, claiming that few believed it — and it turned out to be for good reason.
Even after the Russian president declared war, a Russian envoy to the United Nations denied that Moscow had any grievances with the Ukrainian people, insisting that the Ukrainian people would not be targeted, but only those in power.
This turned out to be completely wrong.
The unanimous condemnation of Western leaders for making Russia a pariah state on the world stage, whose sanctions are expected to hit the Russian economy, could end up putting new pressure on Mr Putin at home despite his best efforts to keep critics from the media and freshmen protests remain silent.
Meanwhile, Mr. Biden has assured the international community that Russia will be held accountable for its actions.
“Only Russia is responsible for the death and devastation caused by this attack, and the United States and its allies and partners will respond in a united and decisive manner,” he said.
But for now, the battle continues in what has become a fierce battle of attrition.
Russia failed to capture Kyiv, and despite numerous attacks on Ukrainian airbases and air defense assets, its air force suffered heavy losses while failing to fully control the skies, limiting its ability to support ground forces.
While allied arms donations to Ukraine have given a big boost to defense efforts, Russia still occupies about 20 percent of the country’s territory, strengthening Putin’s leverage in any future negotiations.
Ukraine has little interest in making concessions to invaders, and any policy of appeasement by Moscow would send a dangerous message to other authoritarian regimes around the world that the West is willing to defend its values.
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