Ukraine-Russia conflict Photograph:( AFP )
Putin denied for months that he was planning an invasion. However, today, in a televised speech, he declared that he had ordered "a special military operation" to protect Russian citizens
Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a military operation against Ukraine on February 24. The forces invaded Ukraine from several directions and this is being seen as the beginning of war in Europe over Russia's demands for an end to NATO's eastward expansion.
Putin denied for months that he was planning an invasion. However, today, in a televised speech, he declared that he had ordered "a special military operation" to protect Russian citizens who had been subjected to "genocide" in Ukraine.
The tensions between Russia and Ukraine go years back. However, tensions escalated in 2021 when Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urged US President Joe Biden to let Ukraine join NATO.
Ukraine is a democratic country of 44 million people, with over 1,000 years of history. It also happens to be the biggest country in Europe by area after Russia.
After the fall of the Soviet Union, it voted for independence from Moscow. Putin deems Ukraine as an artificial creation carved from Russia by enemies. He has also described Ukraine as a puppet of the West.
Zelensky's request to be a part of NATO angered Russia and it started placing troops near the Ukraine border.
On November 10, 2021, the US reported unusual Russian troop movements near the Ukrainian border. On November 28, Ukraine said Russia is massing nearly 92,000 troops for an offensive at the end of January or early February.
However, Moscow denied it and accused Kyiv of a military build-up of its own.
In December, President Biden warned of severe sanctions if Russia invaded Ukraine. Putin has constantly demanded guarantees from the West and Ukraine that it will not join NATO.
This is not the first time that tensions have mounted between Russia and Ukraine. Russia had invaded Ukraine in 2014 and annexed its Crimean peninsula. Rebels backed by President Putin seized large swathes of eastern Ukraine and fought the army. The attack came in when its pro-Russian president was deposed. The war has claimed over 14,000 lives since then.
What does Ukraine want?
A 2001 poll suggests that nearly half of Ukrainians supported the country’s exit from the Soviet Union. Now, over 80 per cent of people support Ukraine’s independence.
As Russia continued to launch missiles, Ukraine's military claimed at least "50 Russian occupiers" were killed. "Shchastya is under control. 50 Russian occupiers were killed. Another Russian plane was destroyed in the Kramatorsk district. This is the sixth," Ukraine's military said.
The border guards further claimed that Russian forces were launching attacks with rockets and helicopters from several directions.
Ukraine's Major General Valeriy Zaluzhny said President Zelensky had ordered its forces to "inflict maximum losses against the aggressor".