Why did Russia invade Ukraine and what could happen next?

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Russia’s “special military operation” has now been raging for nine months, the conflict continuing to inflict devastating casualties and force the mass displacement of millions of Ukrainians.

Vladimir Putin started the war by claiming that Ukraine should be “demilitarized and denazified,” a completely baseless pretext for launching land grabs against a sovereign neighboring state that just so happens to have a Jewish president.

Ukraine has since fought back valiantly and continued to defy the odds by defending against Russian attacks with the help of Western military aid.

This fall, Volodymyr Zelensky’s forces launched a major counteroffensive to recapture the besieged city of Kharkiv and succeeded in driving Russian “orcs” out of Kherson, but as Ukraine’s resistance grows, so do Putin’s threats to escalate the battle , which is causing worldwide concern. about the prospect of nuclear warfare.

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Zelensky said Russian officials had begun “preparing their society” for the possible use of nuclear weapons, but added that he does not believe the Kremlin is ready to use them.

The president believes action is now needed to avert their scenario, pointing out that Russia’s threats pose a “risk to the entire planet” and that Moscow has “already taken a step” through the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant , the largest nuclear power plant in Europe.

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In response to growing feelings that his invasion is backfiring, Putin gave a televised speech in September ordering a partial military mobilization of 300,000 reservists and reiterating his threat to use nuclear weapons against the West, a major escalation of his rhetoric he assured the world, “It’s not a bluff.”

The Kremlin’s wavering forces, further saddled with obsolete equipment and substandard supplies, have employed ruthless siege tactics throughout the war, encircling Ukraine’s cities and subjecting them to intense shelling campaigns, a strategy previously seen in Chechnya and Syria.

Ukrainian cities in the east and south have been shelled by Russian missiles in pursuit of gradual territorial gains, while the shelling of residential buildings, hospitals and nurseries has led to outraged allegations of deliberate targeting of civilians and widespread war crimes.

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Mr Zelensky’s initial calls for NATO to introduce a no-fly zone go unanswered as the West fears such an act would be interpreted by Russia as a provocation and the alliance in a much larger war over Eastern Europe will lure.

However, US President Joe Biden, short-lived UK Prime Minister Liz Truss, their European counterparts and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres have all condemned the Kremlin’s “unprovoked and unjustified” invasion and vowed to hold it “responsible”. rounds of tough economic sanctions against Russian banks, companies and oligarchs, while Ukraine was provided with additional weapons, hardware and defense financing.

People from Ukraine, most of them refugees fleeing the war, wait in front of the consular section of the Ukrainian Embassy in Berlin, Germany, in April

(TBEN)

That said, the Allies have also drawn criticism for not doing enough to support the millions of refugees from the conflict, who have fled their homeland for neighboring countries such as Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Romania and Moldova.

Rising tensions in the region, which first began in December 2021 when Russian troops gathered on the border with Ukraine, only really escalated in the last week of February 2022 when Putin officially recognized the pro-Russian breakaway regions of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) as independent states.

This enabled him to move military assets into those areas, in anticipation of the impending attack, under the guise of providing protection to allies.

That development marked months of frantic diplomatic negotiations conducted by, among others, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Ms. which ultimately came to nothing.

But what are the main issues behind the conflict, where did it all start and how might it unfold?

How did the crisis arise?

Going back to 2014 gives the current situation more context.

Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula that year in retaliation after Moscow-friendly President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted from power by mass protests.

Weeks later, Moscow threw its weight behind two separatist insurgents in Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland, the Donbas, which eventually saw pro-Russian rebels in Donetsk and Luhansk declare the DPR and LPR independent states, though completely unrecognized by the international community.

More than 14,000 people have died in the fighting that has raged in the region for the past eight years.

Both Ukraine and the West have accused Russia of sending troops and weapons to support the rebels, but Moscow has denied the allegations, saying Russians who joined the separatists did so voluntarily.

A man walks past houses damaged by a rocket attack in Kramatorsk, Ukraine, in August 2022

(David Goldman/TBEN)

A 2015 peace deal — the Minsk II Accord — was brokered by France and Germany to end the bloodshed. The 13-point agreement committed Ukraine to providing autonomy to separatist regions and amnesty for the rebels, while Ukraine would regain full control of its border with Russia in the rebel-held areas.

However, the agreement is highly complex, as Moscow continues to insist that it was not a party to the conflict and is therefore not bound by its terms.

Point 10 of the treaty calls for the withdrawal of all foreign armed formations and military equipment from the disputed DPR and LPR: Ukraine says this refers to troops from Russia, but Moscow has repeatedly denied that it has its own troops in the disputed regions.

In 2021, a spike in ceasefire violations in the east and a concentration of Russian troops near Ukraine fueled fears another war was about to erupt, but tensions eased when Moscow withdrew most of its troops following maneuvers in April.

How is the situation at the moment?

After months of costly and violent warfare, it is believed that Russian citizens are finally beginning to see through the fog of Kremlin propaganda and understand Putin’s misjudgment of the war for what it is.

Despite being the aggressor, their country has suffered devastating losses as well as economic consequences due to the leadership’s actions and a growing unwillingness to see more conscripts killed and living standards fall, especially in support of a war that has become so ill-defined is likely and could eventually lead to street protests.

Sir Jeremy Fleming – director of the intelligence, cyber and security agency GCHQ – said Russians are now feeling the consequences of the Kremlin leader’s “choice of war”.

In October, Russia responded to Ukrainian attacks on a major bridge connecting Crimea to its territory by launching a widespread rocket bombardment of Ukraine, killing some civilians in Kiev.

Putin called the destruction of the bridge along the Kerch Strait “an act of terrorism aimed at destroying critically important civilian infrastructure”.

In response to these attacks, Mr Zelensky accused Russia of trying to “wipe his country off the face of the earth”, while his foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, added that the attacks show Mr Putin “is a terrorist who talking to missiles”.

People watch their wrecked cars amid the damage caused by a missile strike in a residential area near Tower 101, not far from Kiev Central Station

(Getty)

Meanwhile, the West continues to assess the risk of nuclear warfare. Biden has explicitly warned that the conflict could lead to “nuclear armageddon.” However, the White House has stressed that it has no reason to believe there is an “imminent” threat that Putin will use such weapons.

But the Kremlin leader made it clear in September that Russia would consider using nuclear weapons against NATO if its territory were threatened by the invasion.

At the time, Putin warned: “To those who allow themselves to make such statements about Russia, I would like to remind you that our country also has several means of destruction, and for some parts more modern than those of the NATO countries. ”

The threat was the most significant suggestion of the use of nuclear weapons by a leader with access to those weapons in decades and threatened to return Washington and Moscow to the height of tensions not seen since the Cold War.

While Russia’s recent withdrawal from Kherson is undoubtedly a triumph for the Ukrainian military, it has also “humiliated” Mr Putin, as Tory MP Tobias Ellwood noted, warning that it could have dire consequences.

“There is great concern that he is going to become more extreme,” he said.

“He’s going to find more imaginative ways to raise the stakes.”

What could happen next?

Western leaders are united in condemning Putin’s “utter brutality”, with Guterres saying he was “deeply shocked” by recent rocket attacks on Ukrainian cities.

“They represent another unacceptable escalation of the war and, as always, civilians pay the highest price,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric added.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg condemned the “heinous and indiscriminate” attacks, while European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said she was “appalled and appalled” by them.

Her European Council counterpart, Charles Michel, unequivocally labeled Russia’s actions as war crimes.

Several emergency meetings have been called to discuss these developments, including G7 leaders with Mr Zelensky and the UN General Assembly, and the war will also be on the agenda when the G20 meets in Bali, Indonesia, an event that Mr. Putin has shunned and Foreign Minister Sergey has sent Lavrov in his place.

TBEN has a proud history of campaigning for the rights of the most vulnerable, and we first ran our Refugees Welcome campaign during the war in Syria in 2015. As we renew our campaign and launch this petition in the aftermath of the unfolding Ukrainian crisis, we call on the government to move further and faster to ensure aid is provided. To learn more about our Refugees Welcome campaign, click here. Click here to sign the petition. If you want to donate, please click here for our GoFundMe page.

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