Russia Launches Full-Scale Invasion of Ukraine, World Vows Consequences
Updated: Mar 6
Most significant military incursion in Europe since the conclusion of WWII
After decades of peace, war has erupted in Europe. We decided to break down the Ukraine-Russia conflict from every angle in bite-sized bits to give our readers an exhaustive understanding of the crisis. We will update this article frequently with the latest updates in the armed conflict and peace process.
For the latest updates in the conflict, click here.
History of the Ukraine-Russia Conflict:
Ukraine emerged from the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 with the world’s third-largest stockpile of nuclear weapons, creating an outsized military dilemma for Russia and the West to solve.
In 1994, Russia, the U.S. and the U.K. signed an agreement with Ukraine in which the three countries promised to uphold the newly independent state’s sovereignty. Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan agreed in return to send their nuclear weapons to Russia for dismantling.
The agreement was broken when Russia illegally annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014. It has occupied the region and Russian separatists have fought in other Eastern Ukrainian regions for the last several years.
Tensions have been growing for weeks as nearly 150,000 Russian troops amassed on all sides of Ukraine’s border conducting military drills and exercises. Until the offensive began, Putin maintained there would be no direct military action while intelligence from Western nations correctly anticipated an imminent invasion.
Photo Courtesy: Getty Images
Timeline of Military Action and Latest Developments:
In the early morning hours of February 24, a pre-recorded speech from Russian President Vladimir Putin called for “a special military operation” in Eastern Ukraine to demilitarize and “de-nazify” the nation. Russia has fabricated baseless claims of genocide against ethnic Russians in the Donbas region and concerns about Ukraine joining NATO as a premise to attack. He also recognized the independence of two regions controlled by Russian separatists fighting in the Eastern regions for years.
Shelling was heard in a number of Eastern cities and air raid sirens sounded in Kyiv during the predawn hours. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy declared martial law as thousands flooded highways to flee the capital city.
Russian troops began a full-scale, multi-pronged land, naval and aerial assault on Ukraine on all fronts. It is the largest violent conflict in Europe since the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945. You can find a map of the fighting here.
Air-strikes have targeted important military installations across the country with an excess of 160 air missiles deployed while dozens of Ukrainian soldiers and citizens have been killed. Several key airports and air bases, including one roughly 25 miles outside of Kyiv, have been attacked or seized.
Ukrainian authorities reported that the Chernobyl power plant was captured by Russian forces. The power plant was the site of the worst nuclear disaster in history in terms of cost and casualties when a nuclear reactor exploded. Controlling the area which is still laden with dangerous radioactive activity is an attempt by Moscow to deter further military opposition.
Heavy aerial bombardment and fighting took place on the outskirts of Kyiv on February 25. Russian forces paused their attacks at nightfall, likely to resupply and rest before a major siege of the capital which military experts predict in the next 24 to 48 hours. Thousands of residents have prepared Molotov cocktails in response.
The NATO Response Force was activated for the first time in history to respond to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The NATO Response Force includes 40,000 troops from NATO allies, including 8500 American soldiers that were placed on heightened alert in January. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg confirmed that NATO will deploy elements of the NATO Response Force on land, at sea and in the air in NATO allies neighboring Ukraine in response to the Russian invasion.
President Zelenskyy made a defiant address to Russia proclaiming the strength and unity of Ukrainians and the world in stopping the aggressor. He also ordered compulsory enlistment of all men aged 18 to 60 and barred them from fleeing the country. Zelensky, along with other top government officials, remain in the capital city despite reports of potential assassination plots against him.
On February 25, a joint statement, with support from 50 different nations, was released following the veto that Russia made on a UN Security Council resolution condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The statement, delivered by U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, declared that Russia’s veto was an abuse of power and would not be upheld. The resolution will be presented to the UN General Assembly, where Russia does not have veto power.
"Russia has abused its power today to veto our strong resolution," UN Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield stated. "But Russia cannot veto our voices. Russia cannot veto the Ukrainian people."
A multinational consensus on the removal of Russia from SWIFT has been reached. After approval expressed by Cyprus and Italy, Germany was the last of 27 EU nations to agree to imposing restrictions on Russia’s involvement in SWIFT. The United States has voiced its support for the removal of Russia from SWIFT, allowing the motion to proceed. In a joint statement published late Saturday afternoon, the White House stated that they, along with the leaders of the EU, commit to removing select Russian banks from SWIFT.
The European Union announced it would close its airspace to Russian airlines, fund a weapons purchase to assist Ukraine and ban some pro-Kremlin media. Fighting intensified in Kyiv and Kharkiv and Putin placed his nuclear forces on high alert, a move to make them readily available that NATO and its allies called overly aggressive. The Ukrainian army has taken the Russian forces aback with their stiff resistance and strong resolve through military fighting and civilian combat.
Ukraine’s Deputy Interior Minister Evgeny Yenin said talks between Russian and Ukrainian delegations will take place Monday morning local time. President Zelenskyy’s office said Belarus President Aleksander Lukashenko called the Ukrainian President earlier Sunday. The talks will be held with no preconditions and mark the first possible steps taken toward a peaceful resolution of the conflict.
A delegation from Ukraine and Russia met for peace talks on the Belarusian border. Ukraine asked for a ceasefire and withdrawal of all forces, and Russia demanded recognition of its sovereignty over Crimea and for Ukraine to remain neutral by not joining NATO. Talks ended without resolution.
Western allies continued to unleash a barrage of sanctions against Russia. The European Union moved to prevent close its airspace to Russia, ban Russian state media outlets, and block Russian central bank reserves. Even Switzerland decided to forgo neutrality and join the EU's sanctions package. On the other side of the Atlantic, the United States Treasury blocked all transactions with Russia's Central Bank, an unprecedented strong move that will further hamper Russia's financial power abroad.
President Zelensky signed an application for membership in the European Union and petitioned the 27-member bloc to grant Ukraine immediate ascension under special procedure.
The United States announced that 12 Russian diplomats have been expelled from the U.N. headquarters in New York due to their engagement in espionage activities that threatened U.S. national security.
As the Russians struggle to overpower Ukraine, they have resorted to deploying vacuum bombs, which are nick-named "The Father of All Bombs". The usage of vacuum bombs, the most powerful non-nuclear bombs, against civilians is prohibited by the Geneva Convention. One attack of a residential building in Kharkiv killed at least nine civilians.
“Our goal is to stand alongside all Europeans and, most importantly, to stand on their level,” said President Zelensky.
President Zelenskyy has officially filed for membership in the European Union. While the process of induction into the EU is lengthy, Ukraine already has the support of Ursula Von der Leyen, the President of the European Union Commission. If Ukraine's appeal for membership is accepted, Ukraine will be eligible for military support from any and all EU nations under the EU's mutual defense clause.
A large explosion struck central Kharkiv directly in front of the city’s administrative building, another brutal attack on Ukraine's second city. Similar air attacks are expected to increase in size and scope in Kyiv and Kharkiv in coming days, raising questions as to whether Russian forces hope to occupy or just surround the cities.
More than 70 Ukrainian soldiers were killed by a Russian rocket attack at a military base in Okhtyrka. Ukraine authorities have accused Moscow of engaging in “barbaric tactics” and war crimes as the death toll from the Russian invasion mounts on the sixth day.
Kyiv's central TV station antenna and the country's main Holocaust memorial were hit by Russian airstrikes that left several dead and wounded. The country's TV stations went down as a result, leaving residents vulnerable to Russian misinformation campaigns broadcasted on backup broadcasts online. Fighting to control Ukraine's communications infrastructure including broadcast, internet, and cybersecurity systems, is likely to ramp up.
Bombardment intensified in Kyiv as Russian tanks continued their slow advance to the capital.
An assassination plot against President Zelensky by Chechen special forces was foiled, as the Ukrainian leader shows resolve and invites danger by staying in Kyiv. Zelensky requested more international assistance and a second round of talks between Ukraine and Russia is scheduled for today.
At least 136 civilians and about 2,000 Russian soldiers have died, Ukrainian and UN officials said.
More than 800,000 refugees have fled Ukraine during Russia's invasion in what "looks set to become Europe's largest refugee crisis this century." About 450,00 of those refugees have entered Poland.
The Mayor of Kherson, Igor Kholykayev, announced Russian troops had seized full control of the city and driven out the Ukrainian military. Kherson, a port city of strategic importance near the Black Sea and Odessa, becomes the first major Ukrainian city to fall to Russian occupation since the beginning of the conflict
Casualties are mounting on both sides as the Ukrainian and Russian delegations met again in Belarus to hold peace talks. Ukraine hopes to agree at a minimum on "humanitarian corridors" for cities heavily hit by missiles. Russian President Vladimir Putin has demanded Ukraine accept “demilitarization," declare itself neutral and drop its bid to join NATO. Attacks in major cities have escalated in nearly every corner of the country as many fear the worst of the fighting is yet to come.
Russian forces shelled Europe’s largest nuclear plant early Friday, sparking a fire as they pressed their attack on a crucial energy-producing Ukrainian city and gained ground in their bid to cut off the country from the sea. The fire has since been put out, but the loss of a power plant that produces nearly one-fifth of Ukraine's energy production is a major loss. Threat of another accidental nuclear disaster has sparked concerns from the Pentagon and the UN Security Council.
March 5 and Onwards
For all the most important developments in the ever-changing volatile conflict, read more here.
Photo Courtesy: Getty Images
It took Poland 35 days to fall to Nazi Germany’s blitzkrieg invasion from September 1 to October 6, 1939, the event that precipitated the beginning of World War Two.
Ukraine officially gained independence from the Soviet Union on December 1, 1991 during the fall of the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union itself was dissolved by former President Mikhail Gorbachev on December 31, 1991.
Photo Courtesy: Associated Press
Notable Quotes from President Biden’s March 1 State of the Union:
Set amidst the backdrop of a subsiding global pandemic, record inflation, and the rebalancing of global international affairs, President Joe Biden delivered the annual State of the Union to a joint session of Congress on March 1.
“We, the United States of America, stand with Ukrainian people. Throughout our history, we have learned this lesson. When dictators do not pay a price for their aggression, they cause more chaos. They keep moving. The cost to America and the world keeps rising.”
“The United States department of justice is assembling a dedicated task force to go after the crimes of the Russian oligarchs. We are joining with European allies to find and seize their yachts, their luxury apartments, their private jets. We are coming for you.”
“I can announce the United States has worked with 30 other countries to release 16 million barrels of oil from reserves around the world. America will lead that effort. Releasing 30 million barrels and we stand ready to do more if necessary.”
“Our forces are not going to Europe to fight in Ukraine, but to defend our NATO allies and reassure those allies in the East.”
“When the history of this era is written, Putin’s choice to make a totally unjustifiable war on Ukraine will have left Russia weaker and the rest of the world stronger. Liberty, democracy, human dignity – these are forces far more powerful than fear and oppression.”
Photo Courtesy: Associated Press
Global oil prices soared to over $105 a barrel for the first time since the Russian invasion of Crimea in 2014. Russia is one of the world’s largest suppliers of oil and natural gas, particularly to Germany and Europe. President Biden levied sanctions against the company behind the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, a contentious pipeline of Russian natural gas to Eastern Europe running through Ukraine whose development some believe gave Russia better economic leverage.
Ukraine’s wheat prices tumble and its exports are likely to fall to significantly low levels in the coming weeks. The nation is considered to be the “breadbasket” of Europe, producing large quantities of grain, wheat, and corn. This presents major supply-chain issues for nations dependent on its exports and throws global commodities markets as a whole into a state of major uncertainty.
Prices of the Russian Ruble plunged to six-year lows and global stock markets tumbled. The compound effect of supply-chain issues, inflation, and the high costs of the conflict create a grim overall economic forecast.
The demand for cash in Russia spiked 58-fold, a sign that citizens are stockpiling cash and worried about the consequences of losing access to SWIFT.
Photo Courtesy: Romania Journal
Who is Russian President Vladimir Putin? Putin began his career in the KGB, the Soviet Union's police and security force, and rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. Putin has led Russia since 2000 as President, although he briefly served as Prime Minister from 2008 to 2012 to avoid constitutional term limits. His strongman leadership created relatively stable economic growth by promoting global trade and increased political power by hampering democratic institutions and processes. Russia on the global stage by. Allies in the West have denounced him as an authoritarian leader who has lost touch on reality.
Who is Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelenskyy? Before he was elected in 2019, Zelenskyy played the role of president on Servant of the People, a show he created and starred in. He also earned a law degree from Kyiv National Economic University. The improbable but popular president has made unity between Ukrainian-speakers and Russian-speakers a top priority of his tenure. Zelenskyy has received praise from Western allies for his courageous leadership since the beginning of the conflict.
Photo Courtesy: NATO
What is NATO? The North Atlantic Treaty Alliance was founded in 1949 to provide for collective security against the Soviet Union. There are 28 European members and two North American members (Canada and the United States). Since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, the organization has continued to serve as the largest peacetime military alliance in the world to provide stability and prevent armed conflict.
What is Article 5? Article 5 provides for the collective defense of NATO signatories; an attack on one ally constitutes an attack on all allies and requires a coordinated military response. Ukraine is not a NATO signatory, largely due to Russian opposition, but bordering countries including Poland and Latvia are members. If Russia launches an offensive on those nations or any NATO member, all NATO members will be forced to dramatically escalate their military involvement or violate a founding principle of the post-war global peace system.
What is SWIFT? The SWIFT system, or Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, facilitates financial transactions for more than 11,000 financial institutions in more than 200 countries around the world. This would block Russia from profiting off all international business transactions and prevent the average citizen from withdrawing money from any international bank. As of February 26, a multinational consensus on the removal of Russia from SWIFT has been reached.
What is the NATO Response Force? The NATO Response Force (NRF) is a multinational force made of land, air, maritime and Special Operations Forces (SOF) specialized for the provision of a rapid military response to an emerging crisis. The NRF is designed to be activated when a NATO ally needs protection or when collective security is threatened. Prior to February 2022, the NRF had not been activated for collective security.
Photo Courtesy: Associated Press
Diplomatic and Humanitarian Efforts:
Leaders in nearly every major nation in the world have condemned Russia’s actions and offered support to Ukraine. Iran, China, North Korea, and Belarus- whose forces are fighting with Russian forces, leading to some sanctions- remain the only major nations to withhold any criticism or offer direct support to Russia.
A large influx of Ukrainians evacuees have begun to move towards Poland seeking sanctuary. Polish, U.S. and NATO forces are prepared to process refugees and provide humanitarian aid in what could be the largest human displacement event since the Syrian Civil War which began in 2011.
Massive protests have erupted in St. Petersburg and other Russian cities. Police have detained thousands of anti-war, Pro-Ukraine activists in a showing that Russian actions will not be met with overwhelming patriotic fervor. Other support protests have emerged worldwide.
During an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council on the night of February 23, hours before the Russian invasion, Ukraine's ambassador had a blunt message for his Russian counterpart:
"There is no purgatory for war criminals," Ukraine's Sergiy Kyslytsya told Russia's Vassily Nebenzia. "They go straight to hell, ambassador."
Ukraine’s Deputy Interior Minister Evgeny Yenin said talks between Russian and Ukrainian delegations will take place Monday morning local time. President Zelensky’s office said Belarus President Aleksander Lukashenko called the Ukrainian President earlier Sunday. The talks will be held with no preconditions and mark the first possible steps taken toward a peaceful resolution of the conflict.
On February 28, a delegation from Ukraine and Russia met for peace talks on the Belarusian border. Ukraine asked for a ceasefire and withdrawal of all forces, and Russia demanded recognition of its sovereignty over Crimea and for Ukraine to remain neutral by not joining NATO. Talks ended without resolution.