Ns News Online Desk: By air, land, and sea, Russia has launched a devastating attack on Ukraine, a European democracy of 44 million people. For months President Vladimir Putin had denied he would invade his neighbor, but then he tore up a peace deal, sending forces across borders in Ukraine’s north, east and south.
As the number of dead climbs, he is now accused of shattering peace in Europe and what happens next could jeopardies the continent’s entire security structure.
Airports and military headquarters were hit first, near cities across Ukraine, including the main Boryspil international airport in Kyiv.
Then tanks and troops rolled into Ukraine in the north-east, near Kharkiv, a city of 1.4 million people; in the east near Luhansk, from neighboring Belarus in the north and Crimea in the south. Paratroops seized a key airbase just outside Kyiv and Russian troops landed in Ukraine’s big port cities of Odesa and Mariupol too.
Moments before the invasion began, President Putin went on TV declaring that Russia could not feel “safe, develop and exist” because of what he called a constant threat from modern Ukraine.
Many of his arguments were false or irrational. He claimed his goal was to protect people subjected to bullying and genocide and aim for the “demilitarization and de-Nazification” of Ukraine. There has been no genocide in Ukraine – it is a vibrant democracy led by a president who is Jewish. “How could I be a Nazi?” said Volodymr Zelensky, who likened Russia’s onslaught to Nazi Germany’s invasion in World War Two.
President Putin has frequently accused Ukraine of being taken over by extremists, ever since its pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovych, was ousted in 2014 after months of protests against his rule. Russia then retaliated by seizing the southern region of Crimea and triggering a rebellion in the east, backing separatists who have fought Ukrainian forces in a war that has claimed 14,000 lives.
Late in 2021 he began deploying big numbers of Russian troops close to Ukraine’s borders. Then this week he scrapped a 2015 peace deal for the east and recognized areas under rebel control as independent.
Russia has long resisted Ukraine’s move towards the European Union and the West’s defensive military alliance Nato. Announcing Russia’s invasion, he accused Nato of threatening “our historic future as a nation”.
Russia has refused to say if it seeks to overthrow Ukraine’s democratically elected government, although it believes that ideally Ukraine should be “freed, cleansed of the Nazis”. Mr Putin spoke of bringing to court “those who committed numerous bloody crimes against civilians”.
It was a thinly veiled hint and by invading from Belarus and seizing Antonov airport close to the outskirts of Kyiv, there is little doubt that the capital is well within his sights.
In the days before the invasion, when up to 200,000 troops were within reach of Ukraine’s borders, he had focused his attention on the east.
By recognizing the Russian proxy separatist areas of Luhansk and Donetsk as independent, he had already decided they were no longer part of Ukraine. Then he revealed that he supported their claims to far more Ukrainian territory. The self-styled people’s republics cover little more than a third of the whole of Ukraine’s Luhansk and Donetsk regions but the rebels covet the rest, too.
The invasion has knock-on effects for many other countries bordering both Russia and Ukraine. Latvia, Poland and Moldova say they are preparing for a big influx of refugees. A state of emergency has been declared in Lithuania and Moldova, where thousands of women and children have already entered.
This is not a war that Russia’s population was prepared for either, as the invasion was rubber-stamped by a largely unrepresentative upper house of parliament.