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Russia and Ukraine: What You Need to Know

February 25, 2022

by: Kate Norman

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Thousands of families are being displaced from their homes.

Friday, 25 February 2022 | Ukraine is in chaos after the beginning of the Russian invasion yesterday, the largest military action on European soil since World War II.

Explosions are being reported around the country, particularly around the capital of Kyiv. Videos on social media show helicopters and Russian fighter jets launching missiles and fighting Ukrainian aircraft for control of the Ukrainian skies. Pictures show hole-punched apartments and people huddling in the underground train stations to take shelter from the fiery precipitation.

Russia launched the invasion early yesterday morning, beginning with some 100 missiles—including ballistic, surface-to-air and cruise missiles—and 75 bombers launching sorties.

The initial targets were airfields and Ukrainian military sites in an attempt to cripple defensive measures.

Then the ground war began, as Russia sent in convoys and tanks.

The Kremlin is launching its attacks from the north, south and east—prompting Ukrainians to seek safety from where it has always looked: west.

Ukraine shut down its airspace to civilian flights after the invasion began, so Ukrainians who are able to do so have escaped the fighting by crossing into Poland, where makeshift refugee centers are ready and waiting.

Russian President Vladimir Putin in a speech justified the Kremlin’s action as a means of defending pro-Russia rebels from the West.

This invasion is the culmination of eight years of fighting in eastern Ukraine. The background goes back to 2014, when Ukraine ousted its pro-Russia president and elected a more Western-friendly government. Moscow responded by invading and annexing the Crimean Peninsula in southern Ukraine. Pro-Russia rebels gained a foothold in eastern Ukraine, where clashes have continued ever since.

On Wednesday, Putin recognized the independence of the self-declared People’s Republic of Donetsk and the People’s Republic of Luhansk, strongholds of the Kremlin-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine.

It gave Russia the foothold it needed to establish a military presence in eastern Ukraine.

Then when the invasion began yesterday morning, planes, troops and convoys poured into Ukraine from Russia’s new eastern-Ukrainian foothold, while convoys also infiltrated from Crimea.

Russia also poured in from the north, where it had troops and tanks stationed in Belarus—conveniently located just north of Kyiv—who were conducting what Russia claimed was merely joint exercises with the Belarussian military.

The Picture So Far

As of Friday morning, 137 Ukrainians have been killed, including 10 military officers and civilians, as well as 316 wounded, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced in a video address, donning a military uniform rather than his usual suit and tie.

The details are foggy amid the chaos ensuing the country, however.

Between 800–2,000 Russian fighters have been killed, the Kyiv Post reported, and the Ukrainian military said it neutralized 30 Russian tanks and between 130–190 armored personnel carriers as well as downing several helicopters.

The 137 Ukrainians killed include soldiers who were obliterated while defending an island in the Black Sea from a Russian war ship. A recording of their interaction before the Russians attacked reveals a loudspeaker announcement from the approaching Russian ship telling the Ukrainians to lay down their weapons or be bombed.

Defiant to the very end, a Ukrainian soldier responds: “Russian warship, go **** yourself.”

“All border guards died heroically but did not give up,” President Zelenskyy said. “They will be awarded the title of Hero of Ukraine posthumously.”

Chaos is the word of the day, as the streets of Kyiv remain empty while the people continue hunkering down in underground train stations, hiding from the near-constant explosions overhead.

Early this morning, a Ukrainian fighter jet was reportedly shot down over Kyiv. A nearby 9-story apartment building reportedly caught fire from falling debris.

Zelenskyy also ordered a mobilization of all of Ukraine’s reserve forces and reportedly banned all males between the ages of 18–60 from leaving the country, indicating that Ukraine will need all hands on deck to defend its soil.

Russia’s main targets have been airports and airfields around the country, which experts say would allow Moscow the footholds it needs to fly in more troops and support to complete its chokehold on Ukraine.

The Kremlin also seized control of the Chernobyl nuclear site, which lies just south of Ukraine’s border with Belarus. This is the infamous site of the nuclear reactor that exploded in 1986, triggering the world’s worst nuclear disaster.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Thursday he is “convinced” Russia will attempt to overthrow the government in Kyiv.

Zelensky seemed to agree, as he said in his address that Russian “sabotage groups” have infiltrated the capital, seeking to kill him and his family.

The Russian People’s Response

Putin does not represent all of Russia. Though the state-affiliated media is predictably pro-invasion, thousands of Russians gathered across the nation to protest the aggression against their neighbor—though some 1,745 of them were reportedly arrested in 54 cities, the Associated Press reported, nearly 1,000 in Moscow alone.

Social media videos show Russian police beating up the protestors and dragging them away in an effort to quell the protest. Before the police crackdown began, a petition circulating throughout the day had gotten 330,000 signatures, AP reported.

The Western Response

The United States and other Western nations, including the 27 member states of the European Union and Australia, Japan, South Korea and other allies have responded by launching sanctions against the Kremlin’s banking system and high-powered individuals. Washington is also imposing export controls to choke Russia of technological products.

“As a result of Putin’s war of choice, Russia will face immediate and intense pressure on its economy, and massive costs from its isolation from the global financial system, global trade, and cutting-edge technology,” a White House statement from yesterday reads.

Earlier this week, US President Joe Biden launched what he called the “first tranche” of sanctions against Moscow, targeting what a senior administration official called “a glorified piggy bank for the Kremlin” as well as Russia’s military bank and several top brass and their families.

“That means we’ve cut off Russia’s government from Western financing,” Biden asserted.

Allies of NATO—the Western alliance that Ukraine was seeking to join, which prompted Russia’s ire in the first place—are deploying and shifting troops around eastern Europe. No one is sending troops or reinforcements into Ukraine, however.

Zelensky is unimpressed.

“We are left alone to defend our state,” the president said. “Who is ready to fight with us? Honestly—I do not see.”

But even after upping the ante with sanctions each day as Russia ups its level of aggression in Ukraine, Putin and his cohorts are clearly not too concerned—much less crippled—by the sanctions, as Russian troops, helicopters, tanks and other forces continue wreaking havoc across Ukraine.

Repercussions

It’s not just the Ukrainian people who will suffer; the Russian boom will cause international ripple effects, including soaring oil prices from Russia, spiking wheat prices from Ukraine and a fall in European stocks.

Posted on February 25, 2022

Source: (Bridges for Peace, February 25, 2022)

Photo Credit: OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine/Commons.wikimedia.org

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

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