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Why did Russia invade Ukraine?

17 March 2022
5 minutes

After some tense weeks, Russia finally launched an attack on its neighbouring country, Ukraine, on February 24, 2022. This was a multi-pronged attack where President Putin sent troops by land, water, and sea, surrounding Ukraine from three fronts. It also attacked Ukraine from Belarus in the north and Russia-annexed Crimea.

While President Putin, in his speech, said that the decision to conduct the military operation was to protect the people of Ukraine. According to Putin, Ukrainians have been subjected to abuse and genocide for eight years. But countries around the world have condemned Russia for the invasion and have started imposing sanctions against it. So, why did Russia invade Ukraine? Here is how it unfolded.

The history between Russia and Ukraine

Ukraine was a part of the USSR and one of the most powerful republics. In 1991, Ukraine declared independence and became an independent country. Over the last three decades, Ukraine has struggled with government corruption and protests. Russia had kept a close eye on its neighbour. Russia was looking to expand and resurrect the broken USSR. To deter Russia’s plans, Ukraine tried aligning itself with western countries.

In 2014, the then President of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, was impeached. And subsequently tries for high treason and abetting Russian aggression against Ukraine. Russia annexed the Crimea region under the pretext of protecting Russians and Russian-speakers from Ukrainian persecution. While the international community strongly condemned this action, Russia also stirred up dissension in Eastern Ukraine.

What is happening now?

While there have been tensions between Russia and Ukraine for a long time, things took a turn in January 2021. Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the President of Ukraine, urged US President Joe Biden to allow Ukraine to be a part of NATO (The North Atlantic Treaty Organization). This is an inter-governmental alliance between American and European countries that ensures the security and freedom of its members using diplomatic and military means.

Russia was already unhappy with the NATO extending its reach into Europe. It had also warned the US to stop including European members in the alliance. With Ukraine showing interest in being a part of NATO, President Putin started sending troops near the Ukraine border in the name of training exercises. Over the year, he gradually increased the number of troops at the border.

By December 2021, international governments had started growing concerned about a war-like situation between Russia and Ukraine. While President Putin maintained that he would not attack Ukraine, US President Joe Biden warned Russia of severe sanctions if there was such an act. Subsequently, Russia sent two documents specifying its security demands. A proposed treaty with the United States and an agreement with NATO. In the agreement, Russia demanded that NATO guarantees that it will halt expanding eastwards. Also, stop offering memberships to former USSR countries, and pull back its military deployments in Eastern and Central Europe.

While Russia and Ukraine had signed a peace treaty to stop the armed conflict in east Ukraine, Russia claims to be sending peacekeepers to the region where the conflict is rife. Many other countries call it an excuse made by Russia to occupy Ukraine. 

Also, Read the Economic Impact of the Russia-Ukraine Crisis for Investors

How Russia attacked Ukraine – The story so far

As compiled from multiple reports and media sources, this is the story:

  • President Putin announces an attack on Ukraine in Donbas. He also asks Ukraine’s military to surrender (February 24, 2022, at 3 am GMT)
  • Within thirty minutes, the US President and NATO Secretary-General condemn the attack
  • 15 minutes later, there are reports of explosions in Eastern Ukraine (Mariupol)
  • Within one hour from Putin’s announcement, Ukraine announced to evacuate all passengers and staff from Kyiv Airport.
  • By 4.15 am, there were reports of bombings near Kyiv and Kharkiv
  • Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry announces that Russia has launched a full-scale attack on the country
  • Ukraine’s residents are requested to stay indoors
  • In response to the attack, Ukraine shuts down its entire airspace
  • Russia declares that its war is against the Ukrainian Government and the people in power in the country
  • Russia-backed separatists attack a town controlled by Ukraine
  • Russia starts targeting Ukraine’s military facilities with precision weapons
  • Russia suspends all flights from domestic airports near the Ukraine border
  • The attacks are focused on Ukraine’s eastern region
  • By 6 am, Russia launches another attack from Belarus
  • Martial law is declared in Ukraine
  • Ukraine retaliates and shoots down Russian planes
  • Ukraine claims that Russia used the annexed Crimea region to bring weapons.
  • The troubled country turns to its citizens to join the fight against Russia.
  • By February 25, Ukraine mobilizes its military for 90 days.

As the fight continues, countries worldwide are condemning the attack on Ukraine and urging Russia to withdraw its troops.

Response to Russia’s attack on Ukraine

Here are some sanctions imposed against Russia after it attacked Ukraine:

  • The USA: Two of Russia’s largest banks were sanctioned, namely, the state-backed Sberbank and VTB Bank. Other sanctions included Otkritie, Sovcombank, and Novikombank. Additionally, the US imposed wide restrictions on semiconductors, telecommunication, encryption security, lasers, sensors, navigation, avionics, and maritime technologies.
  • The European Union: The EU is set to impose sanctions on Russia, targeting its financial, transport, and energy sectors. The Union intends to hit Putin’s system financially and economically and at the heart of its power. 
  • Japan: The Prime Minister of Japan announced that the country would impose sanctions on the financial institutions of Russia. It will also halt the export of military equipment to Russia.
  • The United Kingdom: A 10-point sanctions package was announced by the UK. It included an asset freeze on major Russian banks and stopped Russian companies from raising funds in the UK. It also lists the ban on the exports of certain goods to Russia.
  • Canada: Sanctions were imposed against members of significant banks, and Canada cancelled all exports to Russia. 
  • The Czech Republic will speed up its exit from two international banks set up during the Soviet era. It will also decide on the access to Czech funds to Russian companies.
  • Taiwan: Taiwan has agreed to follow all import-export rules and join democratic countries in imposing sanctions against Russia.
  • Australia: The sanctions imposed against Russia are being strengthened with help from the US.
  • New Zealand: Travel to Russia was banned by the New Zealand government and stopped its exports to military forces. 
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