Here’s everything going on with Russia and Ukraine explained as simply as we can
This morning Russia attacked Ukraine – so how did we get here?
Russia has today launched an all-out war on Ukraine with simultaneous attacks by land and by air. It’s all over the news this morning, but what is actually going on and why is it all happening? Here’s everything explained, as simply as we can:
Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, announced a “special military operation” in a televised address to his citizens in the early hours of Thursday morning. For months, he’s denied his plans to attack.
Shortly after, explosions were reported on the outskirts of the cities of Kharkiv, Kramatorsk, Mariupol, as well as the capital Kiev, prompting many Ukrainians to form queues at supermarkets, ATMs and petrol stations in preparation for the siege or attempting to flee.
Joe Biden, Boris Johnson and UN secretary general Antonio Guterres have joined other global powers in condemning Moscow’s “unprovoked and unjustified” attack and promised to hold it “accountable”, with Boris Johnson expected to announce further “unprecedented” sanctions to Parliament later on today.
Why is this happening?
Going back eight years gives the current crisis more context.
As a former Soviet republic, Ukraine has deep social and cultural ties with Russia, and Russian is widely spoken there, but ever since a Russian offensive in 2014, those relations have frayed.
Russia attacked Ukraine when its pro-Russian president was removed in early 2014. Weeks later, Russia threw its weight behind a separatist insurgency (a group that supported Russia, not Ukraine) that broke out in Ukraine’s east. It eventually saw the pro-Russian rebels declare two regions – Donetsk and Luhansk – independent states.
The war in the east has since claimed more than 14,000 lives.
A 2015 peace accord – the Minsk II agreement – was brokered by France and Germany to help end the large-scale battles. The 13-point agreement obliged Ukraine to offer autonomy to separatist regions (that wanted to remain Russian) and pardon for the rebels, while Ukraine would regain full control of its border with Russia in the rebel-held territories.
The agreement is highly complex, however, because Moscow continues to insist it has not been a party in the conflict, they say they are not bound by its terms.
What is the situation like now?
Russia has long resisted Ukraine’s move towards European institutions, both NATO and the EU. Now, Mr Putin has claimed Ukraine is a puppet of the West and was never a proper state anyway.
He demands guarantees from the West and Ukraine that it will not join NATO, a defensive alliance of 30 countries, and that Ukraine demilitarise and become a neutral state.
But Putin’s patience has run out and Moscow has now launched a new invasion of Ukraine, a country of 44 million people bordering both Russia and the European Union.
Tanks and troops have poured into Ukraine at points along its eastern, southern and northern borders and Russian military convoys have crossed from Belarus into Ukraine’s northern Chernihiv region, and from Russia into the Sumy region, which is also in the north.
At least eight people are known to have died in bombings by Russian forces, Ukrainian police say.
Ukraine has declared martial law – which means the military takes control temporarily – and has cut diplomatic ties with Russia. President Zelensky urged Russians to protest against the invasion and said weapons would be distributed to anyone in Ukraine who wanted them.
In Kyiv there are huge jams on expressways as people flee the city. Social media testimonies speak to a growing sense of panic, with some saying they are being rushed into bomb shelters and into basements. Television footage has showed people praying in the streets.
What might happen next?
With Mr Putin’s announcement of his “special military operation” and subsequent ground reports of explosions and gunfire resounding across Ukraine, the worst case scenario of a war has now been realised.
Western leaders will now likely move to toughen sanctions against Mr Putin’s regime, effectively rendering Russia a pariah state (a state that is considered expelled) on the world stage.
Mr Biden moved to assure the international community that Russia would be held accountable for its actions.
“Russia alone is responsible for the death and destruction this attack will bring, and the United States and its Allies and partners will respond in a united and decisive way,” he said in a statement.
The sanctions so far imposed by the West, include steps to hinder Russian banks from doing business abroad and blocking the approval for the lucrative Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline. They however have been criticised as inadequate and more is being demanded be done.
Follow The Tab for more updates on the situation as we have it.