ISSN 2330-717X

Decoding The Russia-Ukraine Crisis – OpEd

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Ukraine and Russia have an ancestral bond. Ukraine was part of the previous USSR, but broke away in 1991 and became an independent nation. The recent simmering in Ukraine can be traced back to 2014 and the Russian invasion of Crimea, which is claimed to be the first invasion of a European country in the post-cold war period. The present crisis has reached a footing that’s at the brink of war between Russia and Ukraine and its western allies. Recently, it’s reported that up to 150,000 Russian troops and military equipment have been deployed on the Ukraine border.

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Background

The current situation can be traced back to the annexation of Crimea in 2014. The crisis in Ukraine was initiated with protests within the capital city of Kyiv in November 2013 against Moscow-friendly Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych after he decided to reject a deal for greater economic integration with the European Union. The following violent crackdown by the security forces increased the number of protestors and escalated the conflict which led to Yanukovych fleeing the country in February 2014. Later Russian-backed separatist insurgent groups started fighting, killing more than 14,000 people the fight and has been continuing for the past eight years. In March 2014, Russian forces took the control of Ukraine’s Crimea region before formally annexing the peninsula after Crimeans voted to hitch the Russian Federation in an exceedingly disputed local referendum. Putin cited the requirement to safeguard the rights of Russian citizens and Russian speakers in Crimea and southeast Ukraine which accounts for 60% of the population. The crisis heightened ethnic divisions, and two months later pro-Russian separatists within the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of eastern Ukraine held a referendum to declare independence from Ukraine. Violence in eastern Ukraine between Russian-backed separatist forces and also the Ukrainian military continues, but Moscow has denied its involvement. Ukraine and NATO have reported the buildup of Russian troops and military equipment near Donetsk and Russian cross-border shelling.

In July 2014, matters in Ukraine escalated into a global crisis when a Malaysian Airlines flight was shot down over Ukrainian airspace, killing all 298 onboard. Dutch air accident investigators concluded in October 2015 that the plane had been downed by a Russian-built surface-to-air missile. In September 2016, investigators said that the missile system was provided by Russia.

Since February 2015, France, Germany, Russia, and Ukraine have attempted to broker a cessation in violence through the Minsk Accords. The agreement includes provisions for a cease-fire, withdrawal of heavy weapons, and full Ukrainian government control throughout the conflict zone. However, efforts to succeed in a diplomatic settlement and satisfactory resolution have been unsuccessful.

In April 2016, NATO announced that the alliance would deploy troops to Eastern Europe, patrolling troops through Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland to discourage possible future Russian aggression in Europe, particularly within the Baltics.

Since the initiation of the conflict, Ukraine has been the target of a variety of cyberattacks. In December 2015, around 225,000 people lost power across Ukraine in an attack, and in December 2016 parts of Kyiv experienced another power blackout following the same attack targeting a Ukrainian utility company.

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Security assistance to Ukraine increased further during the Trump administration, alongside continued pressure on Russia over its involvement in eastern Ukraine. Further, the US imposed new sanctions on a number of Russian officials, and nine companies linked to the conflict. In March 2018, the US State Department approved the sale of anti-tank weapons to Ukraine, the primary sale of lethal weaponry since the conflict began. In October 2018, Ukraine joined the US and 7 other Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries in a series of large-scale air exercises in western Ukraine. The exercises were a counter to Russia holding its annual military exercises in September 2018, the largest since the fall of the Soviet Union .

Present developments and concerns

Since the conflict began in 2014, shelling and skirmishes have occurred regularly. In late 2021 Russia began to move its troops and military equipment to the border with Ukraine igniting concern over a possible invasion. According to reports, around 150,000 troops are stationed along the Ukraine border. Some social media posts and commercial satellite images show the presence of Russian troops, armor, missiles, and other heavy weapons along the Ukraine border. The Russian foreign ministry has not given a politician statement on the movement of troops. US intelligence warned of the suspicion of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in January 2022 but Russia denied this claim.

In December 2021, Russia imposed certain demands including preventing Ukraine from entering NATO, reducing the troops. But the US and NATO rejected the demand and warned retaliation if Russia tried to invade Ukraine which incorporates economic sanctions and also warned the Nord Stream 2 Russia to Germany gas pipeline would be blocked if Russia moved forward with the invasion.

The US, Germany, and the UK sent troops to nearby NATO countries Poland, Romania and on the other side, China has expressed its support to Russian concerning the Ukrainian issue. If a war initiates it might have a greater impact as it could deteriorate the financial system which is already stricken by the COVID-19 pandemic and it could spill over throughout the globe. Therefore negotiation diplomacy is the only way to prevent the war and reach the conclusion that’s satisfactory to all actors.

*Dilshad Mohamed recently graduated with a MA in Political Science from the Department of Political Science, University of Calicut, and has contributed articles related to the African region in The Kootneeti. 

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