The Russia and Ukraine conflict: explained.

INTRODUCTION

The Russia-Ukraine Border Conflict has been smouldering for over two months, with diplomatic efforts to address the matter showing little headway. Russia has over 100,000 troops stationed along its border with Ukraine, prompting Western predictions of an impending invasion. Meanwhile, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg expressed worry that Russia will build up personnel numbers around Ukraine’s borders, especially in Belarus.

BACKGROUND

The Ukrainian border dispute began in November 2013 with protests in Kyiv over Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s decision to reject an agreement for closer economic integration with the European Union. President Yanukovych departed the nation in February 2014, after a harsh response by state security forces accidentally drew an even more significant number of protestors and intensified the crisis.

Russian soldiers seized control of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in March 2014 before legally annexing the peninsula after Crimeans decided to join the Russian Federation in a contentious local referendum. Russian President Vladimir Putin emphasised the importance of defending the rights of the Russian people and Russian speakers in Crimea and southeast Ukraine. The border war exacerbated ethnic tensions, and two months later, the pro-Russian sentiment was on the rise.

When a Malaysian Airlines aircraft was shot down over Ukrainian airspace in July 2014, the situation in Ukraine escalated into an international crisis, putting the United States and the European Union (EU) at odds with Russia.

Ukraine and the West accused Russia of providing troops and weapons to the insurgents, which Russia denied. On the other hand, Russia has sharply criticised the United States and NATO for supplying Ukraine with weaponry and conducting joint military exercises. President Putin, too, has expressed alarm over plans by certain NATO countries to create military training centres in Ukraine, which will allow military presence in the region even if Ukraine does not join NATO.

Russia stated in its security demands that it does not want Ukraine to be a member of NATO and wants all NATO drills along its borders to halt and the evacuation of NATO forces from Central and Eastern Europe. It should be mentioned that Ukraine’s accession to NATO would need the unanimous agreement of the NATO member states.

Furthermore, Russia regards Ukraine as a territory inside its “sphere of influence” rather than an independent state. However, the United States and NATO have rejected Russia’s requests. The West is backing Ukraine and has threatened Russia with financial repercussions if its forces march into Ukraine.

ROOTS OF THE CRISIS

When the Soviet Union disintegrated in the early 1990s, Ukraine, a former Soviet country, held the world’s third-biggest nuclear arsenal. The US and Russia worked with Ukraine to de-nuclearize the nation, and in a series of diplomatic deals, Kyiv handed up hundreds of atomic weapons to Russia in exchange for security assurances that Russia would not attack it.

When Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014, such guarantees were tested. Russia seized the Crimean Peninsula and sponsored a separatist insurrection in the eastern Donbas area led by pro-Russian rebels. (Too far, the violence in east Ukraine has killed over 14,000 people.)On March 18, 2014, Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Russian-installed leader of Crimea, Sergei Kasyanov, far right, attended a rally in Red Square in Moscow, Russia, following Putin’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine

Russia’s offensive stemmed from widespread demonstrations in Ukraine that deposed the country’s pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych (partially over his abandonment of a trade agreement with the European Union). US officials visited the protests in symbolic acts that irritated Putin even more.

President Barack Obama, wary of further escalation of relations with Russia, was sluggish to assemble a diplomatic reaction in Europe and did not immediately deploy offensive weaponry to Ukrainians.

KEY EVENTS OF THE RUSSIA-UKRAINE BORDER CONFLICT

November 2021

Satellite footage indicates a massive build-up of Russian troops on Ukraine’s border, and Kyiv claims Moscow has mobilised 100,000 soldiers, tanks, and other military gear.

December 7, 2021

US Vice President Joe Biden has warned Russia that if it invades Ukraine, it will face severe economic consequences

December 17, 2021

Russia makes explicit security demands to the West, including the cessation of all NATO military activities in eastern Europe and Ukraine and the alliance’s refusal to admit Ukraine or other former Soviet republics as members.

January 3, 2022

Joe Biden promises Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy that the US will “act strongly if Russia invades Ukraine.”

January 10, 2022

Officials from the United States and Russia are meeting in Geneva for diplomatic talks, but tensions remain unsolved as Moscow reiterates security concerns that Washington refuses to accept.

January 24, 2022

NATO places soldiers on alert and strengthens its military presence in Eastern Europe with more ships and fighter planes. Some Western countries have begun removing non-essential diplomatic personnel from Kyiv. The United States deploys 8,500 troops on alert.

January 26, 2022

Washington issues a formal answer to Russia’s security requests, reiterating NATO’s “open-door” policy while providing a “principled and pragmatic assessment” of Moscow’s concerns.

January 27, 2022

Joe Biden predicts a Russian invasion in February. China lends its diplomatic weight to Russia, telling the United States that Moscow’s “legitimate security concerns” should be “considered seriously.”

January 28, 2022

Russian President Vladimir Putin claims that Russia’s primary security needs have not been met, but Moscow is willing to negotiate.

January 31, 2022

At a special private session of the UN Security Council, the United States and Russia dispute over the Ukraine situation.

February 1, 2022

Putin rejects any plans for an invasion and accuses the United States of disregarding his country’s security requests.

February 6, 2022

According to unidentified US sources reported in US media, Russia has completed 70% of the military preparations required to launch a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

February 8, 2022

French President Emmanuel Macron meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow and promises reporters that Russia will not aggravate the Ukraine situation. On the other hand, the Kremlin denied that Macron and Putin reached an agreement to de-escalate the conflict. Dmitry Peskov, a Kremlin spokesperson, stated that “given the current environment, Moscow and Paris cannot make any agreements.”

February 10, 2022

In vain, foreign Secretary Liz Truss of the United Kingdom and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov meet.

February 11, 2022

According to Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security advisor, US information indicates that a Russian invasion may begin within days before the Beijing Olympics conclude on February 20.

The United States and the United Kingdom have urged their people to flee Ukraine. President Biden announces the deployment of an additional 2,000 US soldiers to Poland.

February 12, 2022

Biden and Putin communicate via video conference. The US president stated that a Russian invasion of Ukraine would result in “widespread human misery” and that the West was dedicated to negotiation to settle the problem but was also “equally prepared for alternative possibilities.”

In the call, Putin complained that the US and NATO had not reacted adequately to Russian demands that Ukraine be barred from joining the military alliance and NATO withdraw.

February 17, 2022

Ukrainians rejected Moscow’s demands with a national display of flag-waving solidarity, as the US warned that Russia had deployed up to 7,000 troops near Ukraine’s borders, despite Kremlin declarations that forces were being withdrawn from the region.

February 18, 2022

While officials from the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization assured that communication was still possible, Russia expelled the United States’ second-highest diplomat in Moscow.

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