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Putin’s speech today: Why did Russia attack Ukraine?

The long-feared Russian invasion of Ukraine continues since Vladimir Putin announced a “special military operation” against the country in the early morning hours of February 24, when the Russian leader falsely declared the need to “demilitarize and denazify” a neighboring state after eight years of fighting in Donbas.

As Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky gives an example from Kiev, tirelessly calling on the international community for support, his people are putting up impressive resistance, stopping the Russian armed forces as best they can, and recently focusing their efforts on regaining Crimea.

Meanwhile, the aggressor continues to employ the brutal tactics of siege warfare, surrounding the country’s cities and subjecting them to intense shelling campaigns, a strategy previously seen in Chechnya and Syria.

Ukrainian cities such as Kharkiv and Mariupol were devastated by Russian rockets in their pursuit of gradual territorial gains in the east and south of Ukraine, while attacking residential buildings, hospitals and nurseries led to outraged accusations of intentionally targeting civilians and war crimes of being committed.

Zelensky’s initial appeals to NATO to introduce a no-fly zone remain unanswered, as the West fears that such an act will be interpreted as a provocation by Russia and drag the alliance into a much larger war over Eastern Europe.

However, US President Joe Biden, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, their European counterparts and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres all denounced Moscow’s “unprovoked and unjustified” attack and promised to hold it “accountable” with the West entering several rounds of economic hardship. sanctions against Russian banks, enterprises and oligarchs while providing Ukraine with additional weapons, equipment and resources for defense.

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

The violent tensions in the region, which began in December when Russian troops gathered on the border with Ukraine, really intensified in the last week of February, when Putin decided to officially recognize the pro-Russian separatist regions of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DRL). and the Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR) as independent states.

This enabled him to transfer military resources to these areas, in anticipation of the coming attack, under the guise of extending protection to allies.

This development has marked months of hectic diplomatic negotiations led by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss in hopes of avoiding disaster.

But what are the key issues behind the conflict, where did it all start, and how could a crisis develop?

How did the crisis begin?

Going back to 2014, the current situation is more contextual.

Russia annexed the Ukrainian Crimean peninsula a year after Moscow-friendly president Viktor Yanukovych was removed from power by mass protests.

A few weeks later, Russia backed two separatist insurgent movements in the eastern industrial heart of Ukraine, the Donbass, in which the pro-Russian rebels in Donetsk and Lugansk eventually proclaimed the independence of the DPR and LPR, although they were not fully recognized by the international community.

More than 14,000 people died in years of fighting that ravaged the region.

Both Ukraine and the West accused Russia of sending troops and weapons to support the rebels, but Moscow denied the allegations, saying the 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 / AP)

The 2015 peace agreement – the Minsk II agreement – was negotiated by France and Germany to help end large-scale battles. The 13-point agreement obligated Ukraine to offer autonomy to separatist regions and an amnesty for rebels, and Ukraine would regain full control of its border with Russia in rebel-held territories.

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

In clause 10 of the agreement, there is a call for the withdrawal of all foreign armed formations and military equipment from the disputed DPR and LPR. Ukraine claims this refers to forces from Russia, but Moscow has previously denied that it has any troops of its own in these countries.

Last year, a surge in ceasefire violations in the east and a concentration of Russian troops near Ukraine fueled fears that a new war would soon break out, but tensions eased when Moscow withdrew most of its forces after maneuvers in April.

What is the current situation?

In early December 2021, U.S. intelligence officials determined that Russia plans to deploy as many as 175,000 troops near the border with Ukraine in preparation for a possible invasion they believe could begin in early 2022.

Kyiv also complained that Moscow had placed more than 90,000 troops near the border of the two countries, warning that a “large-scale escalation” was possible in January.

In addition, the Supreme Commander of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said Russia has approximately 2,100 military personnel in the rebel-controlled east of Ukraine and that Russian officers hold all command positions in the separatist forces.

Moscow has previously repeatedly denied the presence of its troops in eastern Ukraine, without giving any details about their numbers and military locations, claiming that their deployment on its own territory should concern no one.

A man cleans an apartment destroyed after a Russian shelling in Nikopol, Ukraine in August 2022.

(Kostiantyn Liberow / AP)

Meanwhile, Russia accused Ukraine of violating Minsk II and criticized the West for not encouraging Ukraine to comply with its terms.

Amid resentment, Putin rejected the four-party meeting with Ukraine, France and Germany, saying it was useless in light of Ukraine’s refusal to comply with the 2015 pact.

Moscow also sharply criticized the US and its NATO allies for supplying Ukraine with weapons and carrying out joint exercises, arguing that this encouraged Ukrainian hawks to try to regain the areas occupied by the rebels by force.

Putin is known to be deeply offended by what he sees as NATO’s gradual shift eastward from the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989, and is determined to block Ukraine’s access to its ranks.

What could happen next?

With Putin’s statement on February 24, the worst-case scenario came true.

The Kremlin previously routinely denied any invasion plans, says few believed – for good reason, it turned out.

Even after the Russian president’s declaration of war, the Russian envoy to the United Nations denied that Moscow had any claims against the Ukrainian people, which he said would not be the target, but only those in power.

It turned out to be completely false.

Western leaders, united in condemnation, have made Russia a pariah state on the world stage, and their sanctions promise to stifle the Russian economy, which could eventually put back pressure on Putin at home, despite his best efforts to silence critical media and rising protest movements.

Meanwhile, Biden assured the international community that Russia would be held accountable for its actions.

“Russia itself is responsible for the death and destruction that this attack will bring, and the United States and its allies and partners will respond in a united and decisive manner,” he said.

For now, however, the fighting continues into what has become a crushing war of exhaustion.

Russia did not manage to capture Kiev, and despite numerous attacks on Ukrainian air bases and air defense assets, its air force did not manage to take full control of the skies, incurring heavy losses and limiting the possibilities of supporting the ground troops.

While the arms donations by allies to Ukraine greatly strengthened defense efforts, Russia captured around 20 percent of the country, strengthening Putin’s hand in future negotiations.

Ukraine will not be interested in making concessions to the invaders, and any reassurance of Moscow will send a dangerous message to other tyrannical regimes around the world that the West is ready to defend its values.

The Independent has a proud history of campaigning for the rights of the most vulnerable, and we conducted our campaign to welcome refugees for the first time during the 2015 Syria War. Now, as we renew our campaign and publish this petition in the wake of the unfolding Ukrainian crisis, we urge the government to go further and faster to provide help. To learn more about our Welcoming Refugees campaign, click here. Click here to sign the petition. If you want to make a donation, please click here on our GoFundMe site.

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