Russian invasion of Ukraine | 2022| HHL|
On 24 February 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine in a major escalation of the Russo-Ukrainian War that began in 2014. The invasion caused Europe’s largest refugee crisis since World War II, with more than 7.7 million Ukrainians fleeing the country and a third of the population displaced. The invasion also caused global food shortages.
In 2014, Russia invaded and annexed Crimea, and Russian-backed separatists seized part of the Donbas region of south-eastern Ukraine, consisting of Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts, sparking a regional war. In 2021, Russia began a large military build-up along its border with Ukraine, amassing up to 190,000 troops and their equipment. In a televised address shortly before the invasion, Russian president Vladimir Putin espoused irredentist views, challenged Ukraine’s right to statehood, and falsely claimed Ukraine was governed by neo-Nazis who persecuted the ethnic Russian minority. On 21 February 2022, Russia recognized the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic, two self-proclaimed breakaway statelets in Donbas controlled by pro-Russian separatists. The following day, the Federation Council of Russia authorized the use of military force, and Russian troops overtly entered both territories.
The invasion began on the morning of 24 February, when Putin announced a “special military operation” to “demilitarise and denazify” Ukraine. Minutes later, missiles and airstrikes hit across Ukraine, including the capital Kyiv. A large ground invasion followed from multiple directions. Zelenskyy enacted martial law and a general mobilisation of all male Ukrainian citizens between 18 and 60, who were banned from leaving the country. At the start of the invasion, Russian attacks were launched on a northern front from Belarus towards Kyiv, a north-eastern front towards Kharkiv, a southern front from Crimea, and a south-eastern front from the cities of Luhansk and Donetsk. During March, the Russian advance towards Kyiv stalled. Amidst heavy losses and strong Ukrainian resistance, Russian troops retreated from Kyiv Oblast by 3 April. On 19 April, Russia launched a renewed attack across a 500-kilometre (300 mi) long front extending from Kharkiv to Donetsk and Luhansk, with simultaneous missile attacks directed at Kyiv in the north and Lviv in western Ukraine.
The invasion has received widespread international condemnation. The United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution condemning the invasion and demanding a full withdrawal of Russian forces. The International Court of Justice ordered Russia to suspend military operations and the Council of Europe expelled Russia. Many countries imposed sanctions on Russia, which have affected the economies of Russia and the world, and provided humanitarian and military aid to Ukraine. Protests occurred around the world; those in Russia were met with mass arrests and increased media censorship, including a ban on the words “war” and “invasion”. The International Criminal Court has opened an investigation into crimes against humanity in Ukraine since 2013, as well as war crimes in the 2022 invasion.
After the Soviet Union (USSR) dissolved in 1991, the newly independent republics of Ukraine and Russia maintained ties. Ukraine agreed in 1994 to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and dismantle the nuclear weapons in Ukraine left by the USSR . In return, Russia, the United Kingdom (UK), and the United States (US) agreed in the Budapest Memorandum to uphold the territorial integrity of Ukraine
In 1999, Russia signed the Charter for European Security, which “reaffirmed the inherent right of each and every participating state to be free to choose or change its security arrangements, including treaties of alliance”. After the Soviet Union collapsed, several former Eastern Bloc countries joined NATO, partly due to regional security threats such as the 1993 Russian constitutional crisis, the War in Abkhazia (1992–1993) and the First Chechen War (1994–1996). Russian leaders claimed Western powers pledged that NATO would not expand eastward, although this is disputed.
Ukraine, with the annexed Crimea at bottom and two self-proclaimed separatist republics in Donbas at right
Following the Euromaidan protests and a revolution resulting in the removal of pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014, pro-Russian unrest erupted in parts of Ukraine. Russian soldiers without insignia took control of strategic positions and infrastructure in the Ukrainian territory of Crimea, and seized the Crimean Parliament. Russia organized a controversial referendum, whose outcome was for Crimea to join Russia. Russia’s annexation of Crimea followed in March 2014, then the war in Donbas, which began in April 2014 with the formation of two Russia-backed separatist quasi-states: the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic. Russian troops were involved in the conflict. The Minsk agreements signed in September 2014 and February 2015 were a bid to stop the fighting, but ceasefires repeatedly failed.A dispute emerged over the role of Russia: Normandy Format members France, Germany, and Ukraine saw Minsk as an agreement between Russia and Ukraine, whereas Russia insisted Ukraine should negotiate directly with the two separatist republics. In 2021, Putin refused offers from Zelenskyy to hold high-level talks, and the Russian government subsequently endorsed an article by former president Dmitry Medvedev arguing it was pointless to deal with Ukraine while it remained a “vassal” of the US.