On the unfateful day of 24th February 2022, Russian President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin successfully attempted a full-scale invasion on Ukraine—an attack that has been speculated since 2021 because of the increased military activity on the borders by the Russian soldiers. Though the tensions between Russia and Ukraine have increased since 2014 and the Russian annexation of Crimea, both nations have never shared a friendly relationship for a longer period. Russia has always emphasized the shared history and culture of both regions. Needless to say, Russia struggles to recognize Ukraine as an independent state and has always considered Ukraine to be a part of Russia.
So What Happened in 2014?
During February and March of 2014, Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula, previously under the control of Ukraine. Russia had for long claimed Crimea to be a part of Russia and wanted the region under its control. This plan became successful after the Revolution of Dignity that started in Ukraine, and Russia decided to extricate Viktor Yanukovych, the deposed President of Ukraine. Taking advantage of the unrest in the country and pro-Russian protests that were increasingly growing in Crimea, Russia planned to annex the region.
“We must start working on returning Crimea to Russia,” said Putin after an all-night meeting with the security service chiefs on the night of 22nd February. Finally, on 27th February, The masked Russian troops were successfully able to take over the Supreme Council of Crimea and dismissed the sitting government to install Russian Unity Party’s leader Sergey Aksyonov as Crimea’s prime minister.
On 16th March 2014, a referendum was scheduled in which 97% of the public voted in favor of Crimea being a part of Russia. This referendum was considered to be botched, and the EU and the West widely criticized the move to annex Crimea. Russia was even suspended from the G-8 in the aftermath.
How Did the Russia-Ukraine Situation Escalate in 2022?
On 24th February 2022, President Putin violated the peace deal after months of denying that he would not invade Ukraine. Post the Revolution of Dignity, Putin always accused Ukraine of being ‘taken over by the extremists,’ thus even justifying his annexation of south Crimea.
The already flawed relationship between Russia and Ukraine post the 2014 annexation worsened when in early 2021, Ukraine showed interest in NATO and urged USA’s President, Joe Biden, to let Ukraine be a part of the organization.
It all started in November 2021, when Russia mobilized around 100,000 soldiers along with military hardware along the border of Ukraine and Kyiv. Even though the satellite imagery was a clear indication that Russia was onto something, Russia blatantly dismissed all the speculations or any plans on invasion.
In December, USA’s President Joe Biden even made an attempt to pacify the tension along the Russia-Ukraine border by warning Russia of strong economic restrictions by the West but Russia, instead of trying to diffuse the situation, sent an official letter to Ukraine with detailed demands, and even claimed that Ukraine is not a part of NATO and therefore Western powers should withdraw their military support from Ukraine.
As a result of Russia’s actions, Joe Biden issued a public statement to support Ukraine if the present situation escalated. The USA also tried to have diplomatic talks with Russia in January 2022 in Geneva but failed to conclude. The USA even put 8500 troops on alert to prove its support to Ukraine. By this time, fearing that the situation might change for the worse, many nations issued warning notices to their citizens living in Ukraine and even began to evacuate non-essential embassy staff.
While the USA was supporting Ukraine in this conflict, China, Russia’s neighbor, showed its solidarity towards Russia, even saying that Moscow’s security concerns were legitimate and should be taken seriously.
Russia, still maintaining its claim of having no intentions to invade Ukraine, strengthened its forces along the border by 70% by 12th February. In retaliation, the USA also placed around 3,000 troops in Poland to assure Ukraine of its support.
Russia’s President Putin complained in the video conference with Joe Biden of the non-compliance of Russia’s demands and wanted immediate withdrawal of NATO forces from Eastern Europe along with the assurance that Ukraine would not join this military alliance.
By late February, Russia had already deployed its troops to Luhansk and Donetsk, situated in Eastern Ukraine that Russian-backed separatists partly control for a “peacekeeping” mission. The USA also responded by imposing sanctions on Luhansk and Donetsk regions.
On 24th February, the United Nations Security Council meeting to dissuade Russia ironically led to Putin declaring a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
Russia’s plan of rapid military attack and swift takeover of Kyiv failed within the first four days. Though the army had gained access to the region through Belarus, it could not take the city under siege.
East and south Ukraine were the first to bear the brunt of Russian aggression. With the armed insurgents present in Luhansk People’s Republic in the south and guerrilla factions of Donetsk in the east merging with the Russian troops, the Ukrainian army as well its citizens felt helpless amid such chaos.
But despite such heavy blows, Ukraine’s defense-that had significantly improved its resilience since 2014 was successfully able to derail the Kremlin’s initial plan of blitzkrieg. Even the local population started to organize themselves into groups, taking up arms to defend their nation.
What Has Happened Since Then
Kyiv was attacked by two explosions at the beginning of the invasion. In retaliation, the Ukrainian government shot down the enemy aircraft, and it crashed into a residential building. On 25th February, Ukrainian Interior Ministry Representative Vadym Denysenko issued a statement claiming that Russia is targeting civilian areas and the Russian forces have hit 33 civilian sites in just a day. With such heavy fighting in the city of Kyiv, the city of Vasylkiv and its airbase have also been targeted. Ukraine was successful in retaliating against the Russian forces, claiming that it was successfully able to shoot down a Russian Il-76 transport plane with Ukraine’s Su-27 fighter. The very next day, Ukraine witnessed 48 explosions within 30 minutes around the city of Kyiv. Heavy fighting was reported, especially in the areas of Kyiv zoo and Shuliavka.
President Zelenskyy, instead of accepting the USA’s offer to evacuate the officials, decided to remain in the country and instead demanded more ammunition from the US to defend Ukraine from Russian forces.
Kyiv was put under curfew from 5 p.m. Saturday, 26th February to 8 a.m. Monday morning, 28th February, by order of Mayor Klitschko. Internet connections were disrupted in many parts of Ukraine, especially in the south and east. Elon Musk also turned in his Starlink services in Ukraine as a response to the request made by Mykhailo Fedorov, the Vice-Prime Minister of Ukraine.
On 27th February, Russian attacks resulted in the bursting of a gas pipeline, and an oil depot in Kriachky near Vasylkiv was up in flames. The situation worsened because the firefighters were unable to tackle the situation due to heavy fighting near the Vasylkiv airbase. Additionally, the President’s office released an official statement confirming that Zhuliany Airport had also been bombed.
Thanks to the resistance shown by Ukrainians at the Hostomel Airport, the Russian ground forces were restricted to 19 miles north of Kyiv. Even though fighting was still taking place in full swing in the areas near Chernihiv and Kharkiv, both the cities were still under the control of Ukraine (as of 28th February). Even though the Russian Defense Ministry announced that it had captured the Enerhodar and Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant and had control over it, Ukraine denied these claims.
On 1st March, during the bombardments in Kharkiv, ten people were killed along with 20 injured, and the regional administration building on Freedom Square was destroyed. In a statement issued on this day, the Russian Defense Ministry issued a warning that it was planning to launch “high precision strikes” against the “Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) and the 72nd Center for Information and Psychological Operations (PSO)” in Kyiv and asked its residents to leave.
Casualties So Far
This war has rendered many citizens of Ukraine homeless and scared and in desperation to take up arms to defend their nation. As of 1st March, 70 Ukrainian servicemen have been killed, and hundreds of civilians have lost their lives. According to the UN, at least 102 civilians have died, including seven children, since the invasion began.
Unfortunately, 2 Indians who were trapped in war-torn Ukraine have lost their lives. The Indian embassy on Tuesday issued an advisory urging students to leave Kyiv through ‘any means available.’ Naveen Shekharappa Gyanagoudar, 20, from Karnataka, was a 4th-year medical student at Kharkiv National Medical University who lost his life in shelling in Kharkiv on 1st March. Another fourth-year MBBS student, Chandan Jindal, who hailed from Punjab and was studying at Vinnytsia National Pyrogov Memorial Medical University at Vinnytsia, died on 2nd March after suffering from an ischemic stroke.
Written by: Aashna