Lily M., editor-in-chief
Russia declared war on Ukraine late on Wednesday, hours after explosions were heard in the cities of Kyiv, Kharkiv, and other parts of eastern Ukraine. The attack came after international diplomatic efforts were unsuccessful in preventing the planned invasion.
In a statement, President Biden called the invasion an “unprovoked and unjustified attack”. Other global leaders, including British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, have joined the U.S. in condemning Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggression, with Johnson accusing him of “choosing a path of bloodshed and destruction”. Putin justified the invasion during a lengthy speech on Tuesday in which he claimed that “Russia has done everything to preserve Ukraine’s territorial integrity” and declared that the country “was entirely created by Russia”.
The situation remains tense, with the Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs reporting heavy shelling throughout the country. The New York Times also reported that several planes at Ukrainian airports had been hit by Russian missiles. In a statement released early on Thursday morning, the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs reiterated its right to fight back against Russian aggression and asked allies to continue to enact sanctions on Russia and provide aid in the form of funding and military equipment.
The U.S. and European Union have already imposed sanctions on Russia, with American efforts targeting state-owned banks and several individuals who are close to Putin. The EU announced similar sanctions and also prevented Russia from accessing E.U. funds. The U.K. has followed suit.
Biden has promised to continue to work with NATO to assist Ukraine in defending itself, but has made it clear that the U.S. will not send any of its own troops. Last month several Republican members of Congress introduced a bill that would provide more support to Ukraine, something that has begun to garner bipartisan support in recent days. House Republicans have accused Biden of remaining dangerously impassive throughout the conflict. “President Biden’s consistent weakness towards our adversaries around the world has encouraged Putin’s latest military aggression and has endangered the territory of Ukraine,” Representative Elise Stefanik said in January.
The conflict between Russia and Ukraine has been brewing for some time, with the two nations sharing a long and complex history. Both belonged to the Soviet Union, and, following its collapse, Ukraine emerged with a significant stockpile of nuclear weapons. Throughout the 2000s, Ukraine experienced political instability, dealing with multiple large-scale protests. In 2014, protesters ousted then-President Viktor Yanukovych and Ukraine grew closer with its Western allies. However, in April of the same year, Russia invaded the region of Crimea, beginning a brutal conflict that lasted until a tenuous ceasefire agreement in 2015. In late 2021, after tensions had been increasing noticeably, Russia released a list of demands, which included an order that Ukraine not join NATO. These demands were not accepted by Ukraine or its Western allies.
As part of his Tuesday statement, Putin offered his own interpretation of Russia’s relationship with Ukraine. Of the 2014 annexation of Crimea, he said, “the people of the peninsula freely made their choice to be with Russia.” He accused the Ukrainian government of violating its own constitution, ignoring its long-held cultural ties to Russia, and threatening Russia by attempting to join NATO. He also emphasized his displeasure with the U.S., framing the attack on Ukraine as a necessary defensive step on the part of Russia.
Many Russian citizens have expressed discomfort with the invasion. Polls conducted by CNN found that although 50% of Russians felt that their country would be justified in using force to keep Ukraine out of NATO, over half predicted a peaceful resolution to the conflict. Both the majority of Ukrainians and Russians polled agreed that Ukraine should remain separate from Russia. For Russians who do oppose the war, actively demonstrating against it can be highly dangerous. Al Jazeera noted that even a small group of protesters in Moscow were almost immediately arrested.
In the coming days, it is likely that the international community will continue to strongly condemn Putin and issue sanctions against Russia. What kind of military and financial support Ukraine will receive from the rest of the world, particularly its NATO allies, remains to be seen. Biden and the E.U. are expected to announce more details on the reaction to the invasion on Thursday.