Independence Square in Kiev, Ukraine. Source: Flickr. Photographer: Juan Antonio Segal.


A look back at what caused the invasion of Ukraine

Tensions have been high between Russia and Ukraine since the fall of the Soviet Union, and now Russia has chosen to invade Ukraine - an invasion that will cost the lives of innocent people. But to understand the background to the invasion, it is important to go back in time a few decades.

Ukraine, which was part of the former Soviet Union, declared itself independent after a referendum in 1991 in which 90 percent of Ukraine's population voted for independence. Lother has been a sovereign state since then, but Vladimir Putin's inauguration as president of Russia in 2000 has complicated Ukraine's independence many times over. He claims that there is one cultural and historical bond between the countries, partly because Ukraine and Russia co-founded the Soviet Union in 1922, partly because there is a Russian-speaking population in Ukraine. He therefore believes that Russia has the right to influence Ukraine, and also claims that Ukraine can never be a “Full-fledged nation”.

Since Ukraine's independence in 1991, the country has had several different leaders. Some of them have wanted to maintain strong relations with Russia, while others have wanted to integrate more with the western world, the EU and NATO - which has not been welcomed by Putin. This has caused several tensions during the 2000s, where Putin has, among other things, expressed that the fall of the Soviet Union was "Greatest geopolitical disaster of the century" with reference to the lost influence in post-Soviet countries such as Ukraine.

The annexation of the Crimean peninsula

Tensions escalated in 2013 and 2014 as the Ukrainian people protested strongly against pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych, who Ukrainian Parliament shortly thereafter deposed. This is because many in Ukraine wanted to move away from Russian influence and cooperate more with the EU - something Putin saw with horror. 

Concerned that the West would gain even more influence over Eastern Europe, Russia invaded Ukraine with military forces and annexed Crimean peninsula, where a majority of Russian-speaking Ukrainians live. Support was also available for separatists in Ukrainian Donetsk and Luhansk which would become part of Russia. Putin claimed that this was done to save the Russian-speaking population.

Since the annexation of the Crimean peninsula has about 14 people died in the conflict between Russian-backed separatists and Ukrainian citizens. Peace talks have taken place several times between Russia, Ukraine and pro-Russian separatists - with repeated failures. Tensions escalated more and more when it western-oriented president Volodymyr Zelenskyj was elected in 2019. 

A Ukrainian boy holds the Ukrainian flag. Source: Flickr. Photographer: UNDP Ukraine.
The escalation in 2021

In 2021, Russia began mobilizing military troops around the border with Ukraine. Putin has since spread propaganda that there is a genocide of Russian-speaking people in eastern Ukraine, and stated that one must be prepared to protect the Russian-speaking population in the country.

In exchange for withdrawing troops, Putin has tried require a promise from Ukraine never to join NATO. Putin has erroneously claimed that NATO, including the United States, in the negotiations over NATO's presence in East Germany after the fall of the Soviet Union, agreed that never expand their troops to Eastern Europe and post-Soviet countries. However, no such written agreement exists, and Ukraine, which is an independent state, has the right to decide for itself on future NATO membership.

The breaking point

As Ukraine can not promise never to join NATO, Putin ordered an invasion of Ukraine on February 24.. Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson says that in the latest conversation with the President of Ukraine, they said that they may never will see you again

Experts and analysts believe that the goal is to set aside the current president and appoint a pro-Russian government. But exactly what will happen in the future and what Putin's plan looks like, no one can yet predict. 

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