Vladimir Putin announced in the early hours of Thursday morning that the Russian military would be conducting a ‘special operation’ to “demilitarise” and ‘de-Nazify’ Ukraine.
Shortly after the announcement, explosions occurred in several Ukrainian cities, including in the capital, Kyiv.
Russian troops then proceeded to invade Ukraine from the Russian border, from the rebel-held so-called “People’s Republics” of Luhansk and Donetsk, from Belarus, and from the Black Sea.
Russian troops have reportedly blown up border outposts and claim to be meeting with little resistance, while Ukraine claims their military is repelling Russian attacks throughout Eastern Ukraine.
However, Ukraine has since reported that its military is fighting Russian troops to defend a major airport in the Kyiv region.
Prime Minister of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky has severed diplomatic ties with Russia and enacted martial law across the country. He stated:
“No panic. We’re strong. We’re ready for anything. We’ll defeat everyone, because we are Ukraine”
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said:
“This is a war of aggression. Ukraine will defend itself and will win. The world can and must stop Putin. The time to act is now,” he tweeted.”
Putin claims to be going into Ukraine to demilitarise and de-Nazify it, and to allow it to “freely choose” who runs the country. He said:
“Circumstances require us to take decisive and immediate action”
“The People’s Republics of Donbass turned to Russia with a request for help.”
“with the sanction of the Federation Council and in pursuance of the friendship treaties ratified by the Federal Assembly and mutual assistance with the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, I have decided to conduct a special military operation”
“We have no plans to occupy Ukrainian territory.”
“To anyone who would consider interfering from outside: If you do, you will face consequences greater than any you have faced in history”
Putin has been claiming that the West orchestrated a coup in Ukraine in 2014 in order to oust the Russia-friendly government and replace it with a Western friendly government. He has previously referred to the Ukrainian government as a US puppet government.
In the face of Russian intimidation, Ukraine has been sent weapons by, and received training from, NATO troops. Putin claims that NATO’s closeness with Ukraine and refusal to rule-out Ukraine joining the defensive pact is a threat to Russian security.
There is undeniably a neo-Nazi presence in Ukraine, although the extent of its presence is debatable. Most infamous is the Azov Battalion, a regiment in the Ukrainian military which openly waves Swastikas and professes far-right ideals. The Azov Battalion, originally a volunteer regiment before being absorbed by the army, has also attempted to expand its reach into producing news media and running for political office. The battalion provided candidates at the last election but won less than 2% of the vote.
Since 2014, fighting has been ongoing in the Donbas region of Ukraine, between the Ukrainian military and separatist groups in Luhansk and Donetsk. Civilians have been killed by both sides in the conflict, which Putin is painting as a genocide conducted by the government against Russian speaking Ukrainian minorities.
Russia’s Real Reasons
The justifications given for the invasion are at best insufficient and at worst entirely fabricated.
If Russia is truly concerned about a genocide, questions could be asked and why it told the world that it was just conducting military drills. Why did it tell the world it was withdrawing troops from the border?
Some accuse Putin of wishing to reclaim the territories formerly controlled by the Soviet Union, of viewing Ukraine as rightfully Russian land. This is supported by his comments earlier this week that “Ukraine has no legitimate tradition of statehood”, and that it was a creation of Russia that could just as easily be destroyed.
Another possibility to consider is that Ukraine has Europe’s largest reserves of Uranium, although its reserves are largely untapped and dwarfed by those of Canada and Kazakhstan. Russia is currently the world’s leading exporter of natural gas, and second largest exporter of crude oil. Although unlikely, by taking control of Ukrainian uranium reserves, used to power nuclear reactors, Russia could increase the long-term dependence of European nations on Russia for energy.
Leaders from around the world have condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, threatening “the worst sanctions Russia has ever known”.
At noon on Thursday Boris Johnson released a speech to the British public.
“Our worst fears have now come true and all our warnings have proved tragically accurate. President Putin of Russia has unleashed war in our European continent.”
“Innumerable missiles and bombs have been raining down on an entirely innocent population . A vast invasion is underway by land by sea and by air.”
“Today in concert with our allies we will agree a massive package of economic sanctions designed in time to hobble the Russian economy”
“And to that end we must also collectively cease the dependence on Russian oil and gas that for too long has given Putin his grip on western politics”
“Our mission is clear: Diplomatically, politically, economically – and eventually, militarily – this hideous and barbaric venture of Vladimir Putin must end in failure”
“And if the months ahead are grim, and the flame of freedom burns low; I know that it will blaze bright again in Ukraine”
“This crisis is about the right of a free, sovereign independent European people to choose their own future”
“And that is a right that the UK will always defend.”
Boris Johnson will present a new array of sanctions against Russia at 17:00 on Thursday to the House of Commons, after a meeting with other G7 leaders.
Earlier on Thursday, Johnson tweeted:
“President Putin has chosen a path of bloodshed and destruction by launching this unprovoked attack on Ukraine”
US President Joe Biden said:
“President Putin has chosen a premeditated war that will bring a catastrophic loss of life and human suffering. Russia alone is responsible for the death and destruction this attack will bring, and the United States and its allies and partners will respond in a united and decisive way. The world will hold Russia accountable”
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said:
“In the name of humanity, do not allow a war to start in Europe which could be worst war since the beginning of the century with consequences not only devastating for Ukraine, not only tragic for the Russian Federation but with an impact cannot even foresee.”