After months of troop and tank reinforcements, grim warnings of violence and vague assurances of peace, and diplomatic efforts in Washington, United Nations halls and capitals Europe, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began early Thursday morning, with shelling and missile attacks on several major cities including the capital, Kyiv.
Explosions rumbled in the dim pre-dawn light, minutes after Russian President Putin announced the start of a “special military operation” aimed at “demilitarizing” Ukraine without occupying the country. His announcement came as the United Nations Security Council held an emergency meeting, where great ambassadors had to come up with impromptu responses to rapidly changing events.
Hours before the attacks began, President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine made a dramatic televised appeal to the Russian people, saying he wanted to speak to them face to face after Mr. my phone.
“Listen to the voice of reason,” Mr. Zelensky said. “The Ukrainian people want peace.”
They didn’t get it.
Here’s a look at the conflict, how it got to this point and what happens next:
What is the state of the war?
Ukrainians had hoped for months that predictions of an invasion from Russia, a country with which they share much history and culture, could not come true. But on Thursday, they woke up to its dire reality.
Long lines of cars moved out of Kyiv, many heading west in the hope of finding shelter in one of the few areas of the country free of Russian troops. Elsewhere, people sought protection in subway stations and bomb shelters as air raid sirens sounded.
Russian Missiles attacked the cities of Dnipro and Kharkiv. Explosions have been reported in Kyiv, including at the capital’s airport. Russia said its forces had neutralized all Ukraine’s air defenses and airbases, while the Ukrainian military said it shot down five Russian planes and one helicopter.
To the east, Russian-backed separatists have launched attacks on the breakaway regions of Luhansk and Donetsk that they claim but only partially control, Russian state media reported.
The Ukrainian government says Russian troops are also attacking from Belarus to the north, where they have been deployed for military exercises that the United States says could be the basis for building an invasion force to fight back. attack Kyiv. The army attacked border checkpoints with artillery, heavy equipment and small arms.
To the south, Russian troops have landed in Odessa on the Black Sea, according to Ukrainian officials.
Why did Russia invade?
Mr. Putin has long sought to assert some control over his neighbour, which was once part of the Russian and Soviet empires. He expressed his humiliation at the collapse of the Soviet Union and his displeasure at the way the West filled the void. NATO, the military alliance that includes the United States and European powers, has added members in Central and Eastern Europe that were once countries of the Soviet Union or part of its sphere of influence, including Hungary, Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and the Czech Republic. .
In 2008, NATO said Ukraine and Georgia, both former Soviet states, could also join, but did not detail when or how that would happen. For Mr. Putin, that crossed a red line.
In 2014, after Ukraine’s pro-Russian president was ousted in massive street protests, Putin moved to annex Crimea. He also supports the separatist forces that control the eastern regions of Luhansk and Donetsk, where they have waged a protracted war with the Ukrainian army.
The Ukrainian leadership has pursued a policy of closer relations with the West. The country has enshrined in its constitution the goal of joining NATO. but, that is not likely to happen soon. Some member states, which must vote unanimously, remain concerned about expanding military commitments and question the strength of the rule of law in Ukraine, a fledgling democracy plagued with corruption. Spread.
But even the distant prospect of Ukraine joining NATO angers Mr Putin, who calls it a threat to Russia’s security.
Starting last fall, Russia began expanding its military along its borders with Ukraine and Belarus, a country affiliated with the former Soviet Union. The deployments were described as training exercises, but the force was further expanded to 190,000 troops. The United States and its allies warn that Putin appears to be preparing an invasion, often citing intelligence that has traditionally remained secret.
Russia has repeatedly denied those assertions. “Wars in Europe rarely start on Wednesdays,” Vladimir Chizhov, Russia’s ambassador to the European Union, said last week.
But on monday Mr. Putin said he would realize the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics and directed the Russian military to deploy troops in those areas for what he called a “peacekeeping function”.
In a long speech, Mr. Putin present your case for aggression against Ukraine, calling it an artificial creation of the Soviet Union that was manipulated to declare independence. He accused Ukraine’s leaders of oppressing the country’s Russian-speaking population, harboring hatred for Moscow and planning hostilities with Russia, needing to defend themselves.
How did the world react?
Ukraine, the US and others have condemned Russia’s aggression and rejected Mr. Putin’s justifications. The United States and its allies of the European Union have announced a series of limited sanctions, targeting much of Mr. Putin’s inner circle. Those measures include suspending a natural gas pipeline project to Germany, blocking the international transactions of some Russian banks and freezing the overseas assets of some wealthy families and officials. Russian senior.
Both the US and Europe have promised tougher measures should Russia go as far as a full-blown invasion of Ukraine. They have been negotiating the outline of steps for weeks and are expected to roll out new penalties quickly.
But the possibility of outside military intervention seems very small, even though the United States and some European allies have supplied Ukraine with weapons.
Some of the first responses to the Russian invasion came from the United Nations Security Council, which was in an emergency meeting when Putin announced military action.
“Unfortunately, while we are meeting the Security Council tonight, it appears that President Putin has ordered that final step,” said US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield. “This is a serious emergency.”
Ukraine’s ambassador, Sergiy Kyslytsya, urged his Russian counterpart to phone Putin and ask him to stop the war. “There is no purgatory for war criminals,” Kyslytsya said. “They go straight to hell, ambassador.”
Russia’s ambassador, Vasily Nebenzya, replied that his country was not attacking the Ukrainian people but “the army in power in Kyiv.”
The Security Council is expected to meet on Thursday to consider a resolution condemning Russia’s actions, which Russia, a permanent member of the council, is likely to veto.
President Biden said the United States and its allies would “impose severe sanctions on Russia” on Thursday, following a series of initial penalties this week.
Mr. Biden said he spoke with President Zelensky, who he said asked him to “call on world leaders to speak out clearly against President Putin’s brutal aggression and take a side Ukrainian people”.
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/24/world/europe/why-russia-attacked-ukraine.html How Russia attacked Ukraine and what happens next