Russia has finally inaugurated its long-feared “full-scale invasion” of Ukraine after Vladimir Putin declared a “special military operation” in a televised address to his residents in the early hours of Thursday morning.
Explosions were announced soon on the outskirts of the cities of Kharkiv, Kramatorsk, Mariupol, as well as the capital Kyiv, prompting many Ukrainians to form lines at supermarkets, ATMs, and Gas Station in preparation for bearing the siege or attempting to flee.
Airports in Ukraine have been shut down temporarily and secured against likely Russian aircraft landings while Russia has closed its airspace around the border to civilian access for the next four months.
Ukrainian president Volodymyr said his government is initiating martial law in all territories of the state and urged citizens to stay at home as much as possible.
US president Joe Biden, UK prime minister Boris Johnson and UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres have joined other global powers in condemning Moscow’s “unprovoked and unjustified” attack and vowed to hold it “accountable”, with the Western powers afterward introducing another round of tough economic sanctions against Russian banks and businesses. According to Mr. Zelensky, 137 Ukrainian civilians and soldiers were killed on the first day of fighting and another 316 injured as he solicited the international community to do more to help.
He vowed to remain in Kyiv as Russian missile strikes began to target the city in the early hours of Friday morning.
HOW THE CONFLICT CAME ABOUT?
Going back in history eight years before clarifies the current situation better. Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014 after the country’s Moscow-friendly President Viktor Yanukovych was driven from power by total protests. Weeks later, Russia threw its weight behind a separatist insurgency that broke out in Ukraine’s east, which eventually saw the pro-Russian rebels declare the DPR and LPR independent states, although they previously went fully unacknowledged by the international community.
More than 14,000 people have died in the war that has been ongoing throughout the intervening years and which has devastated Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland. Both Ukraine and the West have accused Russia of sending troops and weapons to back the rebels but Moscow has denied the allegations, stating that Russians who joined the separatists did so voluntarily.
A 2015 piece 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 and amnesty 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 0party in the conflict and is therefore not bound by its terms.
In point 10 of the coalition, there is a call for the withdrawal of all foreign armed formations and military equipment from the disputed DPR and LPR. Ukraine says this refers to forces from Russia but Moscow has previously denied it has any troops in those states.
The last spike in ceasefire violations in the east and a Russian troop concentration near Ukraine fuelled fears that a new war was about to erupt but tensions abated when Moscow pulled back the bulk of its forces after maneuvers in April.