U.S. officials and their western counterparts have warned for days that a Russian invasion of Ukraine was imminent.
Following a bellicose television appearance blasting Ukraine for its Western ties, Russian leader Vladimir Putin ordered troops in pro-Russian Ukrainian provinces.
The Kremlin falsely called Monday night’s invasion of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts a “peacekeeping mission” after Russia unilaterally recognized their independence.
The regions geographically make up roughly 10% of the total area of the country and 15% of its population.
U.S. and Western officials warn the violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and occupation of a large portion of the county could be the pretext for a far larger military operation affecting all of Ukraine.
The development marks the end of the Minsk peace process, considered a pathway for an eleventh-hour diplomatic solution.
In a late night television address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he would not cede his country’s territory to Putin, telling the world “we don’t owe anything to anyone, and we will not give away anything to anyone.”
The United States and United Kingdom announced that they will impose further sanctions on Russia.
Putin “wants to demonstrate that through force he can make a farce of the UN,” U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said, later adding that the Biden administration plans additional sanctions against Russia on Tuesday. The U.K. ambassador, Barbara Woodward, said Russia has brought us to the brink. We urge Russia to step back.”
Putin’s end game is unclear. Whether armored spearheads will drive deep into the country toward population centers like Kiev, Karkiv and Poltava remains to be seen.
In the last few weeks, 75% of Russia’s conventional forces moved to within striking distance of Ukraine.
Civilians reported a mobile Russian military hospital, near Shebekino, three miles from the border and no more than a thirty minute drive from Kharkiv.
Many in the West still don’t understand what the Kremlin hopes to achieve from a major invasion.
According to CNN, fully grasping the situation requires understanding Ukraine’s place in Russian history.
Ukraine was a cornerstone of the Soviet Union until it voted overwhelmingly for independence in 1991, a milestone that turned out to be a death knell for the failing superpower.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, NATO pushed eastward, bringing into the fold most of the Eastern European nations that had been in the Communist orbit. In 2004, NATO added the former Soviet Baltic republics Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Four years later, it declared its intention to offer membership to Ukraine some day in the distant future — crossing a red line for Russia.
Putin has indicated he sees NATO’s expansion as an existential threat, and the prospect of Ukraine joining the Western military alliance a “hostile act.” In interviews and speeches, he has emphasized his view that Ukraine is part of Russia, culturally, linguistically and politically. While some of the mostly Russian-speaking population in Ukraine’s east feel the same, a more nationalist, Ukrainian-speaking population in the west has historically supported greater integration with Europe. In an article penned in July 2021, Putin underlined their shared history, describing Russians and Ukrainians as “one people.”
Above all, it seems, the tyrant Putin yearns to bring the homeland of his cultural ancestors, the Kievan Rus, back into the Russian fold.