On Thursday morning the world woke up to the inevitable that has been brooding over the past few days. Russia has launched an invasion of Ukraine with several villages coming under missile attacks including major Ukrainian airports and military bases.
Ukraine’s foreign minister warned that a full invasion was underway. Russia launched what has been described as the biggest attack on any nation by another since the end of the Second World War. The attacks were targeted at Ukraine’s defence, land and sea defences as well with Putin labelling it as a ‘special military operation’ meant to protect the lives of independent states in Ukraine which also have Russian citizens that have been subjected to genocide for years.
How did it come this far?
Weeks of intense negotiations, appeals and imposition of sanctions by the West on Russia did little to disarm the already prepared arm of the Russian leader, Putin to launch the attack on Ukraine. Russia gathered about 200,000 troops along Ukraine’s border while demanding that NATO ends its expansion in the eastern parts of Ukraine. It also said Ukraine’s membership in the military alliance was unacceptable.
Russian President Vladimir Putin recognized two separatist regions as independent and deployed troops there in the name of peacekeeping which led to intensified shelling from Monday with many including the West describing it as the start of an invasion.
Sanctions were imposed on Russian banks and individuals by Japan and the West. The EU imposed sanctions on the Russian defence minister, Sergei Shoigu and other top security officials close to the Kremlin. As part of the sanctions, the affected persons’ assets were frozen and also visa bans were imposed.
The toughened its stance against the decision of Russia to recognize the two separatist regions as independent and the subsequent deployment of troops to the regions. The United Nations Security Council at its emergency session on Monday condemned Russia’s decision.
“That illegal act further undermines Ukraine’s sovereignty and independence and is a severe breach of international law and international agreements,” an EU statement announcing further sanctions agreed to at a meeting in Paris on Tuesday said.
Ukraine was also subjected to cyberattacks in the lead up to the invasion and the EU in imposing sanctions identified the Internet Research Agency, IRA – accused of leading misinformation campaigns backed by the Kremlin was also targeted.
As reported by Aljazeera, “The company conducts disinformation campaigns targeting Ukraine’s agenda by influencing elections or perceptions of the annexation of Crimea or the conflict in Donbas,” the EU said, adding that “The Internet Research Agency is responsible for actively supporting actions, which undermine and threaten the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine.”
The agency’s founder Yevgeny Prigozhin, a close ally of President Putin also presumed to be the founder of Wagner, a mercenary group accused of sending troops to conflict zones including Ukraine has already been blacklisted for the group’s participation in Libya and his wife and mother have been added.
Some other key persons’ targeted by the sanctions include the Editor-in-Chief of the state-run English channel RT, and Margarita Simonyan also working for the same channel. The Russian foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova and pro-Kremlin broadcasters Vladimir Solovyev and Pyotr Tolstoy are the other top officials added to the blacklist.
Three popular banks VEB, Rossiya and Promsvyazbank were also added to the sanctions list while imports from Donetsk and Luhansk territories were also added to the list of sanctions imposed by the European Union.
The United Kingdom has also targeted five key Russian banks and oligarchs while the United States also targeted Russia’s sovereign debt and some other key banks in sanctions announced on Tuesday. Australia, Canada and Japan have also imposed sanctions on Russia while Germany has also sanctioned Russian-owned 1,230-kilometre-long Nord Stream 2.
Ukrainian President message to Russians
Meanwhile, the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Wednesday addressed the nation in an emotional message that was both a plea to the Russian people and government to think twice about their steps and a message that Ukraine was ready to go to any length to protect itself. He warned of the consequences to life, peace, Europe and the world.
“Today I initiated a phone call with the president of the Russian Federation. The result was silence. Though the silence should be in Donbas. That’s why I want to address today the people of Russia. I am addressing you not as a president, I am addressing you as a citizen of Ukraine,” President Volodymyr Zelenskyy stated as reported by Aljazeera..
“You are being told this is a plan to free the people of Ukraine but the Ukrainian people are free,” he stated. “The Ukraine on your news and Ukraine in real life are two completely different countries — and the main difference is ours is real. You are told that we are Nazis. How could a people that lost more than 8 million people in the fight against Nazism support Nazism?
He continued, “This is our land. This is our history. What are you fighting for and with whom? Many of you have been to Ukraine. Many of you have relatives in Ukraine. Some have studied in Ukrainian universities. Some have made friends with Ukrainians. You know our character. You know our people. You know our principles.”
“We know for sure we do not need a war — not a cold one, not a hot one, not a hybrid one,” he said. “But if these forces attack us, if you attempt to take away our country, our freedom, our lives, the lives of our children, we will defend ourselves. Not attack — defend. And in attacking, you are going to see our faces. Not our backs, our faces,” he said as quoted by the Washingtonpost.
Source: Aljazeera, Washingtonpost, The Guardian