President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Friday that 137 military personnel and civilians were killed and hundreds wounded in fighting on the first day of Russia’s invasion of the country.
Russia launched its offensive on Thursday by land, air and sea after President Vladimir Putin declared war.
Putin, who for months denied he was planning an invasion, announced in a televised address that he ordered “a special military operation” to protect people, including Russian civilians, subject to “genocide” in Ukraine. Had given. He also said that Ukraine is an illegitimate state whose land has historically belonged to Russia.
What’s the issue between Russia and Ukraine?
Ukraine, a democratic country of 44 million people with a history of more than 1,000 years, is the largest country in Europe by area after Russia. It voted overwhelmingly for independence from Moscow after the collapse of the Soviet Union, saying it intended to join NATO and the European Union. Meanwhile, Putin has called Ukraine an artificial creation carved out of Russia by enemies, a feature Ukrainians call shocking and false.
The Russian president has also claimed that Ukraine is a puppet of the West and was never a proper state anyway. Ukraine crisis Putin has sought guarantees from the West and Ukraine that he will not join the defensive alliance of 30 countries NATO.
It also wants Ukraine to be demilitarized and a neutral state. But in January last year, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urged US President Joe Biden to allow Ukraine to join NATO. This greatly upset Russia as it does not want Ukraine to move towards European institutions like NATO and the European Union.
But why do Russia, America and Europe care so much about Ukraine?
Both Russia and the West see Ukraine as a potential buffer against each other. Russia considers Ukraine within its natural sphere of influence.
Much of it was part of the Russian Empire for centuries, many Ukrainians are Russian-speaking and the country was part of the Soviet Union until independence in 1991. Russia was terrified when an insurgency in 2014 turned Ukraine’s Russia-friendly president into a disproportionate one. West facing the government.
Most of the former Soviet republics and allies in Europe had already joined the European Union or NATO. Ukraine’s withdrawal from Russian influence felt like the final death knell for Russian power in Eastern Europe.
The uprising in 2014
When Ukraine’s Moscow-friendly president was ousted from mass protests in February 2014, Russia responded by annexing Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula.It then backed an insurgency in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine, which is mostly Russian-speaking. In April 2014, Russian-backed separatists seized government buildings in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, declared the establishment of “people’s republics,” and clashed with Ukrainian troops and volunteer battalions.
The separatist regions held a popular vote the following month in an attempt to declare independence and become a part of Russia. Moscow has not accepted the offer, simply using the regions as a tool to keep Ukraine in its orbit and prevent it from joining NATO.
Ukraine and the West accused Russia of providing troops and weapons to the insurgents. Moscow denied that any Russian volunteers were fighting there. Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine on 17 July 2014, killing all 298 people on board, amid brutal fighting between tanks, heavy artillery and warplanes.
An international investigation concluded that the passenger plane was shot down by a Russian-supplied missile launched from rebel-held territory in Ukraine. Moscow still denied any involvement.
What do Ukrainians want?
The threat of another Russian invasion has reinforced a growing sense of national pride and unity among Ukrainians, even among those who grew up speaking Russian. As recently as 2001, opinion polls suggested that almost half of Ukrainians supported the country’s departure from the Soviet Union.
Today, more than 80% support Ukraine’s independence, and more than half have joined NATO. Although anxiety courses across the country, life continues more or less normally in most.
Both civilians and government leaders say they remain calm amid foreign reports of an imminent invasion, and some even say they doubt Russia will indeed invade. At the same time, an increasing number of civilians volunteer to join defence units and enroll in first aid courses.
(With inputs from agencies TOI)