When did the Russian invasion of Ukraine begin?

Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February 2022. It was considered as an act of aggression globally. The invasion has triggered Europe’s largest refugee crisis after World War II. More than 4.3 million Ukrainians left the country and a quarter of the population got displaced.

In a broadcast shortly before the invasion, Russian president Vladimir Putin questioned Ukraine’s right to statehood, and alleged that Ukraine was dominated by neo-Nazis, who persecute the ethnic Russian minority. Putin also said that NATO has posed a threat to Russia’s security by expanding eastward since the early 2000s (this accusation was disputed by NATO.) On this premise, Russia demanded that Ukraine be barred from joining NATO.

The invasion began on the morning of 24 February, when Putin announced a “special military operation” to “demilitarise and denazify” Ukraine. Missiles and airstrikes hit across Ukraine, including the capital Kyiv, which was followed by a large ground invasion from multiple directions. In response to this attack, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy enacted martial law and general mobilization. The country was severely affected, but Ukrainians put up a strong resistance against the mighty Russians.

Even in the middle of the invasion, peace talks were going on in Turkey. Several countries put sanctions on Russia and many multinational companies stopped their services in Russia.

Picture Credit : Google

What was considered as Putin’s goal?

It is believed that Russian president Vladimir Putin has multiple goals in invading Ukraine. The Russian leader’s primary aim was to overrun Ukraine and depose its government, and thereby end its desire to join NATO. Prior to launching the invasion on 24 February, he told the Russian people that his goal was to “demilitarize and de-Nazify Ukraine’, in order to safeguard the people who are subjected to what he called eight years of bullying and genocide by the Ukrainian government. These accusations of genocide in Ukraine are false according to several observers, and many say it is much like the Russian allegation that Ukraine was building a plutonium-based ‘dirty’ bomb.

Whatever its justification, Russia saw this as an important moment. Russia invaded from the north, through Belarus, and from the south and east, but Ukraine’s sturdy resistance has forced the Kremlin to drop its plan to oust the government.

After a month into the invasion, Russia declared that its main goal was the “liberation of Donbas”, referring to Ukraine’s eastern regions of Luhansk and Donetsk. More than a third of this area was already seized by Russian-backed separatists in a war that began in 2014, and now Russia has plans to acquire all of it.

Cities like Mariupol and Odessa were destroyed almost completely. Towns in the area freed by Ukrainian armies faced severe damage from shelling and attacks, as well as casualties among civilians. In Bucha near Kyiv, images of bodies in the streets, some with hands bound, have raised concern about war crimes by Russia. But Russia has denied any involvement in civilian killings.

Apart from his military goals, President Putin’s broader demand is Ukraine’s future neutrality. Some fear that his military setbacks in Ukraine may pave the way to even bloodier scenes of retribution in the near future.

Picture Credit : Google

Why the Ukrainian president is considered a national hero by many?

Zelenskyy is the sixth and current president of Ukraine. Before the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was often looked down upon as a comedian turned unlikely politician. But with social media support, he has become the leader Ukraine needed. Zelensky has inspired Ukrainians to fight for their country and the Europeans to view Ukraine as a victim of aggression, which resisted bravely for independence, freedom, and democracy.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy grew up as a native Russian speaker in Kryvyi Rih. Before getting into his acting career, he obtained a degree in law. He pursued comedy and created a production company Kvartal 95, which produced TV shows including the TV series Servant of the People, in which he enacted the role of the Ukrainian president. A political party bearing the same name as the television show was created in March 2018 by employees of Kvartal 95. Zelensky announced his candidature in the 2019 Ukrainian presidential election on the evening of 31 December 2018. After winning the election, he announced himself as an anti-establishment and anti-corruption figure.

During its invasion by Russia, more than 90 per cent of Ukrainians supported the decisions of Zelenskyy. His recognition grew across the globe as a wartime leader of Ukraine. He has been the target of more than a dozen assassination attempts during the invasion, but he survived all of them. He made efforts to bring the governments of western nations to isolate Russia. He has made numerous addresses to the legislatures of the EU, U.K, Poland and U.S. On March 27, 2022, Slovakia awarded Zelenskyy with one of the country’s top awards, the State Award of Alexander Dubcek.

Zelenskyy’s decision to remain in the capital, Kyiv, while it was under Russian attack and his family’s decision to stay in Ukraine was a decision which moved many including several European leaders. Appearing on screen during the emergency summit meeting of European Union leaders on February 24, he gave a passionate 10-minute speech that made some reluctant leaders endorse a harsher package of economic sanctions on Russia.

Picture Credit : Google

How has the Ukraine-EU relationship changed over time?

Ukraine signed a Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with the EU in 1994. It was based on common values around democracy, human rights and a market economy, which established the prospect of a future free trade area.

Russia was Ukraine’s largest export market as recently as 2012, but by 2018 after the signing of the 2014 Ukraine-EU Association Agreement, Russia’s share of Ukrainian exports fell to 15 per cent while the EU accounted for 41 per cent and imports also followed the same pattern.

The EU is currently Ukraine’s largest trading partner. About 40 per cent of its trade in 2019 was with the EU, with the total trade between the two sides worth 43.3 billion euro. During the post-Soviet period, Ukraine’s relations with the EU and the corresponding impact on its relationship with Russia played a critical role in the political development of the country.

In 2013, then Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych backed off from signing the EU Association Agreement, which eventually led to the Euromaidan Revolution. In February 2019 the Ukrainian parliament decided on a constitutional amendment making EU (and NATO) membership long-term goals for Ukraine.

Picture Credit : Google

Why did Ukraine’s Euromaidan protests begin?

In 2013, Ukrainians came out to the streets for peaceful protest after President Viktor Yanukovych refused to sign an agreement that would have led to Ukraine’s integration in the European Union. This led to a massive civil unrest in the country on 21 November 2013 with huge protests in the Independence Square in Kyiv. The effect of the protests intensified with calls for the resignation of the president.

As the protests in Kyiv’s Independence Square, also known as the Maidan, continued into 2014, the government began to take action on the protestors. This accelerated the revolt and turned it into what was called ‘the revolution of dignity’. The protestors in the Maidan risked assault, kidnapping, unlawful arrest, and loss of their jobs. On January 16, the state introduced a wave of repressive laws that severely restricted civil society and their right to protest. On January 22, the first protesters were killed in clashes in Kyiv and over 100 civilian protesters died subsequently, mostly between February 20 and 21.

On February 22, President Yanukovych fled the country and the parliament voted to remove him and hold new elections. On May 25, Ukrainians elected Petro Poroshenko as their president. After the October elections, a new pro-reform coalition government came into power in December 2014.

Picture Credit : Google