Ukraine-Russia War Conflict – The One That Changed Europe

Ukraine-Russia War Conflict
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Ukraine-Russia War Conflict – The One That Changed Europe shares the complete background of whatever took place since the war began.

Background

Armed conflict erupted in eastern Ukraine following Russia’s annexation of Crimea at the beginning of 2014. The previous year, state security forces brutally put down protests against President Viktor Yanukovych’s decision to reject a deal for deeper economic integration with the European Union (EU) in Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine. As the unrest and bloodshed grew worse, President Yanukovych departed the country in February 2014.

March 2014 saw the Russian military gain control of the Ukrainian region of Crimea. The need to protect the rights of Russian nationals and speakers in Crimea and southeast Ukraine was emphasized by Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia. Russia legitimately acquired the peninsula after Crimeans in a controversial local referendum voted in favor of joining the Russian Federation. Two months after the crisis deepened ethnic divisions, pro-Russian rebels held their own independence referendums in the eastern Ukrainian districts of Donetsk and Luhansk.

The local districts quickly descended into armed conflict between the Ukrainian troops and Russian-backed forces. Although Russia denied any military involvement, Ukraine and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) reported a buildup of Russian personnel and military equipment near Donetsk as well as Russian cross-border firing shortly after Crimea was annexed. The conflict turned into an ongoing standoff with periodic shelling and fighting occurring along the lines dividing the eastern regions occupied by Russia and Ukraine.

France, Germany, Russia, and Ukraine made an effort to start talks to stop the violence through the Minsk Accords beginning in February 2015. The basis of the deal contained clauses calling for a halt to hostilities, the removal of heavy weapons, and complete Ukrainian government control over the whole conflict area. However, diplomatic efforts to find a compromise and a satisfactory outcome were mainly ineffective.

NATO announced in April 2016 the deployment of four battalions to Eastern Europe, with troops rotating through Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland, in an effort to deter any potential Russian invasion elsewhere on the continent, particularly in the Baltic States. In September 2017, the US also dispatched two U.S. Army tank brigades to Poland to bolster NATO’s presence in the region. The United States announced fresh sanctions in January 2018 on 21 people—among them, a number of Russian officials—and 9 businesses involved in the fighting in eastern Ukraine. The first shipment of lethal weapons since the conflict started was approved by the U.S. Department of State in March 2018 when it agreed to sell anti-tank weapons to Ukraine. A series of significant air drills were conducted in western Ukraine in October 2018 with participation from Ukraine, the US, and seven other NATO nations. The exercises followed Russia’s own yearly military drills in September 2018, which were the biggest since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Months of data gathering and observations of Russian troop movements, force buildup, and military contingency finance culminated in a White House briefing with U.S. intelligence, military, and diplomatic leaders on a nearly certain mass-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine in October 2021. The only remaining uncertainties were the date of the attack and whether the United States would be successful in persuading allies to take preventive action. Both questions had their answers on February 24, 2022, when Russian soldiers invaded a mostly unprepared Ukraine after Russian President Vladimir Putin gave the go-ahead for a “special military operation” against the nation. Putin asserted in his statement that the operation’s objectives were to demilitarize and denazify Ukraine as well as put an end to the purported genocide of Russians in Ukrainian territory.

The Joe Biden administration made the unusual choice in the days and weeks before the invasion to loosen information-sharing restrictions and permit a wider release of intelligence and results, both with allies like Ukraine and publicly. This tactic was intended to fortify ally defenses and deter Russia from acting aggressively. Commercial satellite images from November and December 2021, social network posts, and published intelligence all showed the movement of armor, missiles, and other heavy weapons toward Ukraine without any official justification from the Kremlin. With U.S. intelligence authorities predicting a Russian invasion in early 2022, more than 100,000 Russian troops were stationed close to the Russia-Ukraine border by the end of 2021. The middle of December 2021

The Russian foreign ministry demanded that the US and NATO end their military operations in Central Asia and Eastern Europe, pledge to stop any further NATO enlargement toward Russia and forbid Ukraine from ever joining NATO. In response to these requests, the United States and other NATO partners rejected them and warned to inflict harsh economic sanctions on Russia if it engaged in aggressive behavior toward Ukraine.

The largest deployment of Russian forces to Belarus’s border since the conclusion of the Cold War was visible on satellite images in early February 2022. The United States, Russia, and European nations—including France and Germany—never succeeded in reaching an agreement. Due to Russia’s expanding military position along the Russia-Ukraine border, the United States warned that Russia intended to attack Ukraine in late February 2022.

A few days later, as retaliation, the United States imposed sanctions on the regions and the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. However, in the days leading up to the invasion, U.S. and Ukrainian authorities continued to disagree on the nature and likelihood of an armed Russian threat, with Ukrainian officials downplaying the possibility of an invasion and delaying the mobilization of their troops and reserve forces.

Putin responded to a last-ditch UN Security Council attempt to stop Russia from attacking Ukraine on February 24, 2022, by announcing the start of a full-scale land, sea, and air invasion of Ukraine. Targets of the invasion would include Ukrainian military installations and towns all around the country. President Joe Biden of the United States and his European allies condemned the action as “unprovoked and unjustified” and placed severe penalties on key Kremlin insiders like Vladimir Putin and Sergey Lavrov, four of Russia’s biggest banks, and the country’s oil and gas industry. On March 2, 141 of the 193 UN members voted in a special session of the General Assembly to condemn Russia’s invasion and urge that Russia leave Ukraine immediately.

Ukraine has also become the target of thousands of cyberattacks more frequently since the invasion of Crimea in 2014. More than 225,000 people in Ukraine lost power as a result of an attack on energy production companies in December 2015; similarly, a similar attack on a Ukrainian utility company resulted in another power outage in some areas of Kiev in December 2016. The NotPetya cyberattack, which has been blamed on Russia, struck the Ukrainian government and commercial computer systems in June 2017. The attack extended to computer systems around the world and resulted in billions of dollars in losses. Distributed denial-of-service attacks were undertaken against the websites of the Ukrainian government, including those of the defense and interior ministries, banking institutions, and other connected organizations, concurrently with the Russian invasion in February 2022.

Long-range missile attacks seriously damaged Ukrainian military equipment, urban residential areas, and communication and transportation infrastructure as the initial Russian invasion faltered. Additionally, apartment buildings and hospitals were the targets of bombing and shelling operations. Russia declared that it would “reduce military activity” close to Kyiv and Chernihiv in late March 2022. By April 6, all Russian soldiers had left the area surrounding the Ukrainian capital. Following the Russian retreat from Kyiv’s environs, Ukrainian residents gave accusations of rape, torture, and alleged war crimes by Russian forces. These accounts included summary executions.

After failing to take over the capital, Russia began a military operation in eastern Ukraine on April 18. Mariupol, a significant and extremely crucial port city in the southeast that had been under siege since late February, was taken under Russian control by the end of May. Drone footage released by Ukraine’s far-right Azov Battalion exposed the severity of the Russian attack, which had left the city in ruins and caused a serious humanitarian crisis. Russian forces were accused of violating international humanitarian law after attacks on people in the city that were both random and planned, like an airstrike on a theater and the bombardment of a maternity hospital.

Since the summer of 2022, much of the fighting has been confined to Ukraine’s east and south, with Russian cruise missiles, bombs, cluster munitions, and thermobaric weapons causing damage to port cities around the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. a worsening of an already severe global food crisis brought on by disruptions in the supply chain, price increases, and the Russian seizure of major Ukrainian ports, which led to a blockade on Ukrainian food exports.

Prior to the conflict, Ukraine was the WFP’s (which provides food aid to vulnerable communities) main supplier of foodstuffs. A deal to release more than 20 million tons of grain from Ukrainian ports under Russian control was struck by Russia and Ukraine in July. On August 1, 2022, the first grain shipments to leave Ukraine since the Russian invasion left from Odesa; on August 15, they arrived in Syria, a country aligned with Russia, despite Lebanon being their initial supposed destination.

In retaliation for what Ukraine described as a “false pretext” attack on Russian naval forces, Russia canceled the grain agreement on October 29.

However, as Ukraine defiantly continued to ship goods, Russia did not enforce the blockade. Turkey then immediately negotiated Russia’s return to the agreement, which has been continuously extended to this day.

The international community experienced worries of a nuclear catastrophe at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear reactor near the Dnipro River in the middle of August as a result of the war’s southern frontline movement. The Zaporizhzhia facility, the biggest nuclear reactor in Europe, was taken by Russian forces in the early phases of the conflict. Rising hostilities between the Ukrainian workers at the facility and the Russian occupants have also cast doubt on its ability to continue operating safely. Concerns about the plant being seriously harmed in the crossfire from fighting in the area around the facility have arisen since the shelling of the plant’s switchyard has already resulted in a city-wide riot.

In order to assess the risk of a nuclear accident, IAEA personnel, including Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi, visited the plant in the first week of September. In a report [PDF] on the results of its inspection, the IAEA demanded the creation of “a nuclear safety and security protection zone” around the facility and the immediate stop of “all military activity” in the surrounding area.

Ukrainian forces won significant gains in the northeast and launched a reenergized southern counteroffensive in September 2022. After shocking Russian soldiers and cutting off crucial supply lines at Lyman, Ukraine retook a sizable portion of the Kharkiv region before pausing and establishing a new front line. Soon after, when Ukrainian forces swiftly retook Kherson and all areas west of the river, Russia rapidly withdrew across the Dnipro River in southern Ukraine. By the end of 2022, Ukraine had liberated 50% of the area that had been under Russian occupation, with 14% of the nation still under Russian rule.

After losing Kherson, Russia redistributed its forces to Donetsk and sent tens of thousands of reinforcements to the region in preparation for an onslaught in February 2023. On September 21, 2022, Russia also moved to annex four occupied territories: Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia. This action sparked antiwar protests and forced many Russians to escape the country. Putin also alluded to the danger of nuclear escalation in his speech announcing the illegitimate acquisition of Ukrainian territory, asserting that the United States had set a precedent by unleashing nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II.

Concerns

Relationships between the United States and Russia have been severely strained as a result of the current crisis, which also increases the likelihood of a broader conflict in Europe. Due to the security obligations of the partnership, tensions are likely to rise between Russia and nearby NATO members, which would likely involve the US. Additionally, the fight will have larger repercussions for future collaboration on crucial issues including arms control, cybersecurity, nuclear nonproliferation, economic stability globally, energy security, counterterrorism, and political solutions in Syria, Libya, and other places.

Along with destabilizing the world’s energy and resource markets, Russia’s isolation has also led it to seek closer strategic ties with those nations (like China) that are still ready to cooperate with it, generally in opposition to the West. In addition to compounding an already severe dearth of resources and humanitarian relief accessible globally, military actions and violence have made it more difficult to carry and distribute vitally needed aid, particularly food. New developments

Putin declared in February that he intended to invade all of Donbas in an assault push by March 2023 after a winter standoff. The assault, which made little headway, turned into a protracted siege of Bakhmut, a town of a small strategic significance and 70,000 residents before the war. According to American estimates, twenty thousand Russians died in Bakhmut along with 100,000 other casualties. Despite the low official figures from Russia, Yevgeny Prigozhin, the commander of the Wagner Group, agreed with the American estimates and added that almost half of those murdered were Russian prisoners of war who had been recruited for combat. In the urban battle, Ukraine also suffered significantly. Despite Zelenskyy’s claims that his men are still engaged in combat there as Ukraine switches to, Russia claimed to have captured the city by late May.

On June 6, 2023, a breach of the Nova Kakhovka dam, sixty kilometers north of Kherson on the Dnipro River, caused severe flooding that badly impacted over 80,000 people who live in the riparian zone. While Russia alleges Ukraine launched the strike to deprive Crimea of water and divert attention away from the front lines of fighting, Ukraine accuses Russia of blowing up the dam to stop a southeast invasion. According to the Ukrainian dam owner, it can no longer be repaired. Although the cooling ponds are allegedly stable, the draining of the reservoir raises questions about the availability of water to cool the reactors at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant.

In June 2023, Ukraine launched a keenly anticipated counteroffensive in an effort to breach Russian fortifications in the provinces of Donetsk, especially the area surrounding Bakhmut, and Zaporizhzhia, which serves as a “land corridor” to Crimea. According to Zelenskyy, Ukraine wants to free 18% of the occupied region in the current phase, but fighting hardened Russian defensive positions, greater air power, and minefields has cost Ukrainian soldiers heavily. Despite this, Ukraine has achieved modest gains on the ground and intensified its attacks on Russian ships, Moscow-area facilities, and bridges leading to Crimea.

Since February 24, 2022, the US has given Ukraine security assistance totaling around $40 billion, including $19 billion in urgent military aid and $6 billion in humanitarian aid. Additionally, the Biden administration approved the delivery of increasingly sophisticated weapons in early 2023, including the Patriot air defense system, which is essential for fending off Russian airstrikes, and elite combat tanks. Additionally, the number of American troops in Europe has expanded significantly, reaching over 100,000 now.

On June 8, 2023, at a press conference with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Biden said he believed the US had the means to “support Ukraine as long as it takes.” The following day, the Department of Defense announced an increase in military aid of 2.1 billion dollars. Russia has turned to nations like North Korea and Iran for intelligence and military equipment while still selling discounted oil and gas to countries like India and China, among others, even as the United Nations, the Group of Seven, the EU, and other organizations continue to denounce its actions and support Ukrainian forces.

The full-scale military invasion of Ukraine by Russia on February 24, 2022, resulted in approximately 9,000 civilian deaths and over 15,000 civilian injuries, according to the UN Human Rights Office’s statistics as of June 2023. Over six million people have been domestically displaced as a result of the conflict, and over eight million have been compelled to escape to nearby nations, notably Moldova and Poland, a NATO member where the United States and other partners are helping to house the surge of refugees.

On June 23, Yevgeniy Prigozhin produced a video accusing the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) of shelling Wagner soldiers and declaring a “march of justice” to overthrow the military hierarchy. This presented Putin with a significant internal problem.

The rebellion comes after months of hostilities with the MoD, which Prigozhin frequently criticized and accused of failing to provide enough ammunition, as well as an effort by the MoD to control Wagner fighters. Rostov-on-Don was swiftly taken over by Wagner forces, who also took control of Russia’s southern military command. Wagner convoys then moved closer to Moscow than they had previously, at which point Putin branded the march “treason” and offered soldiers who turned back amnesty.

On June 24, Alexander Lukashenko, the president of Belarus, arranged Prigozhin’s relocation to Belarus and the return of the Wagner soldiers to their bases. Although the exact motivations of Prigozhin are still unknown, the incident undermined both Putin and the Wagner Group.

What the European Union must do

The appropriate preparations are being taken by European nations to get ready for forced migration. These efforts must be quickly intensified and transformed into significant and tangible support, though. States must guarantee secure entry and exit from their territory and make sufficient preparations for a humane and efficient response. Additionally, they must assist and stand with Ukraine’s neighbors who are receiving refugees at their borders.

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By maintaining open borders, offering sufficient reception support, ensuring full access to asylum, and assuring adequate reception, European nations must welcome their neighbors leaving Ukraine. People of all citizenship and nationalities arriving from Ukraine must be protected by Europe, not simply Ukrainian citizens who have visa-free entry to the European Union.

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