At the writing of this piece, it has been confirmed by multiple sources that Russia has invaded Ukraine, with the very possibility of an all-out war imminent. This will be the largest war of its kind in Europe since the Second World War.
Overnight, explosions were reported in several parts of Ukraine, including its capital, Kyiv. Russian President Vladimir Putin confirmed a “special military operation” was underway in Ukraine, explaining his reasoning via a televisioned speech, saying “its [Russia’s] goal will be to defend people who for eight years are suffering persecution and genocide by the Kyiv regime,” says Putin.
“For this, we will aim for demilitarization and denazification of Ukraine, as well as taking to court those who carried out multiple bloody crimes against civilians, including citizens of the Russian Federation.”
He said Russia does not intend to occupy Ukraine.
As the situation continues to escalate across Ukraine, here are the important things to know about why Russia is invading Ukraine and what is likely to occur.
Why is Russia attacking Ukraine?
The tensions between Ukraine and Russia are quite complicated and long-standing. Formerly a part of the Soviet Republic, Ukraine shares great cultural, economical and political history with Russia.
But put simply, the escalated violence in recent months comes down to Vladimir Putin’s opposition to Ukraine joining NATO – The North Atlantic Treaty Organization – and the annexing of Crimea in 2014.
Going back to 2014, when Ukraine declined the overthrow of a pro-Moscow Ukrainian government, Russia saw this as a sign that Ukraine could more closely align itself with the West in the future. With Russia adamant to never let Ukraine become aligned with Western institutions – primarily NATO – Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, a peninsula in the south of Ukraine that troops invaded and eventually controlled.
After this fact, Russia held a referendum for the people of Crimea, in which voters were asked essentially to choose whether the disputed territory become a part of the country of Russia.
And the conflict hasn’t subsided since this moment, with the UN estimating that at least 14,200 people have been killed in eastern Ukraine, including over 3,000 civilians, since the war broke out in 2014.
And how have things escalated since?
Russia has hinted at an attack on Ukraine for months now, which came to fruition in brutal circumstances on Thursday 24 February. With airstrikes and shelling deployed on cities around Ukraine, millions of civilians were left to flee for shelter in neighbouring countries, while others hid underground in train stations. A “full-scale war” is well underway, Ukraine’s government confirmed, with Russian tanks and troops crossing the borders from the east north and south.
President Vladimir Putin proceeded with the attack despite a myriad of backlash from the United States and other world powers, who have all since imposed sanctions on Russia as a resulting consequence.
President Putin’s response?
“Anyone who tries to interfere with us, or even more so, to create threats for our country and our people, must know that Russia’s response will be immediate and will lead you to such consequences as you have never before experienced in your history,” says Putin.
“We are ready for any turn of events.”
President Vladimir Putin threatened “consequences you have never faced in your history” for “anyone who tries to interfere with us.” His speech, intended to justify the invasion of Ukraine, seemed to come close to threatening nuclear war. https://t.co/98DJWNFYOo pic.twitter.com/AEUXpmJ2Uy
— The New York Times (@nytimes) February 24, 2022
How is Ukraine responding?
On Thursday, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy declared martial law and severed all diplomatic ties with Moscow. In a tweet, Zelenskyy stated “As of today, our countries are on different sides of world history,” he wrote. “Russia has embarked on a path of evil, but Ukraine is defending itself and won’t give up its freedom.”
Russia treacherously attacked our state in the morning, as Nazi Germany did in #2WW years. As of today, our countries are on different sides of world history. 🇷🇺 has embarked on a path of evil, but 🇺🇦 is defending itself & won't give up its freedom no matter what Moscow thinks.
— Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) February 24, 2022
Naturally, President Zelenskyy and his Ukraine are not going to roll over to Russia, thus ordering a full military mobilization to challenge the Russian invasion, which will last for 90 days. The world, as told through the lens of social media accounts globally, is with Ukraine.
Men have also been ordered to stay in Ukraine, as a large number of civilians have since fled the country. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, told the BBC that the UN believed more than 100,000 people had already left their homes in Ukraine.
The Ukrainian Government, however, has since banned male citizens aged between 18 to 60 from leaving the country.
Have there been any deaths so far?
According to President Zelenskyy, 137 civilians and military personnel have been killed thus far in the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
How is the world reacting?
In the hopes of putting out a clear and concise message of solidarity with the people of Ukraine, President Joe Biden spoke with the conviction of the President of the United States of America: Vladimir Putin and Russia will bear the consequences of his actions.
In a press conference, President Biden said “the Russian military has begun a brutal assault on the people of Ukraine. Without provocation. Without justification. Without necessity. This is a premeditated attack.”
“Putin is the aggressor. Putin chose this war. And now he and his country will bear the consequences.”
We have been transparent with the world — we shared declassified intelligence about Russia’s plans and cyber attacks and false pretexts — so that there can be no confusion or cover up.
Putin is the aggressor. Putin chose this war. pic.twitter.com/xFM5a6T9hG
— President Biden (@POTUS) February 24, 2022
Elsewhere, anti-war protests in Russia have been seen across the country in several major cities, including the capital Moscow, with hundreds making it out to protest the war against Ukraine.
Western allies, including Australia, have also announced the imposition of further sanctions on Russia in the bid to reverse Russia’s advances on Ukraine. These sanctions largely include financial penalties on Russia, including on banks and individuals, and also include export blocks on technology.
And while Ukraine isn’t a part of NATO – meaning the U.S. and other NATO countries aren’t required to intervene – President Biden made it very clear in his address to the nation on Tuesday, that “The United States, together with our allies, will defend every inch of NATO territory,’ should Russian progress into NATO territory – a fear of many around the world right now.
I spoke with the G7 leaders today, and we are in full agreement:
We will limit Russia’s ability to be part of the global economy.
We will stunt their ability to finance and grow Russia’s military.
We will impair their ability to compete in a high-tech, 21st century economy.
— President Biden (@POTUS) February 24, 2022
What does this mean for the global economy?
Unbeknownst to many, Ukraine, as the crossroads between Europe and Russia, holds an incredibly powerful position as a provider to the world in many different aspects. Here are just some ways:
- Ukraine is the 1st in place in Europe in proven recoverable reserves of
- 2nd place in Europe and 10th place in the world in
terms of titanium ore reserves;
- 2nd place in the world in terms of explored
reserves of manganese ores (2.3 billion tons, or
12% of the world’s reserves);
- 2nd largest iron ore reserves in the world (30
- 2nd place in Europe in terms of mercury ore
It is also an incredibly important agricultural country, and can meet the food needs of 600 million people:
- 1st in Europe in terms of arable land area;
- 1st place in the world in exports of sunflower and
- 2nd place in the world in barley production and
- 3rd largest producer and 4th largest exporter of
corn in the world;
- 4th largest producer of potatoes in the world;
- 5th largest rye producer in the world;
- 5th place in the world in bee production (75,000
- 8th place in the world in wheat exports;
- 9th place in the world in the production of chicken
- 16th place in the world in cheese exports.
So, with that in mind, it’s understandable how Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is already proving a massive blow to financial markets and the worldwide economy, especially amid a global pandemic that continues to surge.
But notwithstanding, as the invasion cuts into the massive food and energy sources that Ukraine provides, it’s guaranteed that global energy costs will rise as a result, including food costs, also.
How to keep updated?
The New York Times, Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post are doing a great job of providing timely updates on the invasion. The Washington Post also provides live updates that maps where the Russian invasion of Ukraine is happening.
Social media is also proving to be an incredibly accurate source for all current happenings, and these Twitter accounts have been providing reliable updates as to what exactly is happening and where:
- President Joe Biden and Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken are tweeting about the international response, as is:
- NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg
- UN Secretary General António Guterres
- The Kyiv Independent and Kyiv Post offer English language updates from Ukraine’s capital.
- The Washington Post’s Isabelle Khurshudyan and the BBC’s Myroslava Petsa are stationed in Kyiv
- The New York Times’ Michael Schwirtz