Why did Russia attack and invade Ukraine? What are the motives and the origin of the conflict?

(CNN Español) — After months of tension and escalation between Russia and Ukraine, with more than 150,000 soldiers equipped with armored vehicles deployed on the border and reports of exchanges of fire between Ukrainians and pro-Russian rebels in the Donbás region, Moscow finally invaded: announced on February 24 the beginning of special military operations in Ukraine.

The day before, Vladimir Putin, president of Russia, had recognized the separatist territories in Ukraine — Donetsk and Luhansk, controlled by pro-Russian rebels since 2014 — and had announced the sending of soldiers to Donbás, fueling even more tensions.

Mucho ha pasado desde ese momento: este domingo 24 de se cumplen exactly cinco meses.

Russia atacó Ukraine desde Belarús, en el norte; desde territorio russo, en el noreste y este; y desde Crimea, annexed in 2014, en el sur. Pero sus offensives in the north, against Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, and in the northeast, against Járkiv, no complieron con sus objectives ante la dura resistencia ucraniana —assistida por las armas vivaidas por Occidente— y las fuerzas rusas empezaron a retreatarse en marzo . Y en el mar, el crucero de missiles Moskva, buque insignia de la flota rusa en el mar Negro, fue sankido por un ukranian missile.

Moscú, afectada por las internationale sanctions, puso entonces su atención en el Donbás, en el este, y en el sur, acotando sus operacións militares. There he had some successes, like the capture of Jersón and Mariúpol, while the fighting with Ukrainian forces continued and the bombings over the cities of Ukraine did not stop.

En medio de todo esto, sosas comunes fueron halladas en Bucha, al norte de Ukraina, cuando los rusos se retreataron, y los reportes de matanzas de civiles han ido en aumento al igual que los bombardeos. According to the UN, until now 3,778 civilians have died and 4,186 have suffered injuries, although the real figure could be greater, and 6.5 million have fled their homes.

But, why did Russia decide to invade Ukraine?

La situación tiene political, historical and strategic aristas. Este es un vistazo a cada una de ellas.

The tense history between Ukraine and Russia

The history of Ukraine and Russia is entrelazada y se remonta at least until the media age, in the context of Kievan Rus, an oriental Slavic state. But both evolved separately, teniendo cada uno un idioma y cultura, que partía de una raiz común.

A partir del siglo XVII, grandes porciones de territorio de Ukraine pasaron a formar parte del crênciente del Imperio Russo. While in the twentieth century, with the exception of a short period of independence in 1917, Ukraine incorporated into the Soviet Union.

Lasting independence finally came in 1991, after the dissolution of the USSR, and from then on, Ukraine set its sights on Europe and its interest in belonging to NATO — the military alliance led by the United States that it had faced during the Cold War al Pacto de Varsovia— precisely para insegura esa independencia. Especialmente, luego de que Ukraine devolviera a Rusia, tras la independencia, las armas nucleares que estaban desplegadas en su territorio en tiempos de la URSS.

Meanwhile, muchos en Moscú considera que la historia de Ukraina sigue estando entrelazada con Rusia.

In July 2021, Putin himself said in a long essay that Russians and Ukrainians were “un solo pueblo”. It was also pointed out that the West had corrupted the Ukraine and had pulled it out of Russia’s orbit through a “forced identity change”.

Resumen en video de la guerra Ukraine – Russia: 19 de julio 15:36

Crimea and Donbas, centers of crisis

In 2013, a historic political and commercial agreement between Ukraine and the European Union strained relations with Russia. The then president of Ukraine, Víktor Yanukóvich, suspended the negotiations —according to the pressure of Moscow— and during the weeks violent protests broke out in Kyiv known as Euromaidan. In 2014, the Ukrainian parliament finally deposed the president, which he described as a revolution in Ukraine and as a “gulpe de estado” but part of Yanukóvich.

The escalation culminated with the most direct antecedent of the current crisis: the annexation of Crimea, a peninsula that was part of the independent Ukraine in 1991, but part of Russia in 2014 and while the country was fighting the political crisis. Before justifying it, Russia allegó que estaba defendiendo sus intereses y los de los ciudadanos de habla rusa en Crimea, una región con fuertes loyaltadas hacia Rusia.

After that, pro-Russian rebels rose up in the Donbass region, in the east of Ukraine, and started a civil war in the region that continues until now and that confronts the Ukrainian government against the self-proclaimed popular republics of Donetsk and Luhansk, supported by Russia —que se considera su protector—, que en febrero reconoció su independencia, ocho años después.

Crimea and the Donbás are at the center of the crisis, and in April Russia admitted that at the beginning of the crisis, one of its objectives was to control the south of Ukraine before connecting these two territories controlled by Moscow since 2014. caída de Mariúpol, la principal ciudad entre ambas regiones, ha sido un avance en esta dirección.

That’s how the second largest city in Ukraine ended after the bombings 1:02

“Since the beginning of the second phase of the special operation (…) one of the tasks of the Russian army is to establish total control over Donbás and southern Ukraine. This will provide a terrestrial corridor to Crimea,” he said at the time el divisional general Rustam Minnekaev, comandante en funciones del Distrito Militar Central de Rusia, according to TASS, una agencia de noticias estatal rusa.

The expansion of NATO after the collapse of the USSR

Moscow insists that it is not looking for a war – it still calls its invasion as a “special military operation” – and that the responsibility for the crisis is from NATO, although the United States and its allies have said that the authorship of the crisis belongs to Russia .

“Nos han engañado descaradamente. Cinco oleadas de expansion de la OTAN. Y ahí está: ahora están en Rumania y Polonia, con sistemas de armas”, said Putin in December, assuring that Russia “no quiere acciones militares”. “Pedimos diremente que no haya más movimientos de la OTAN hacia el este. La pelota está en su court”.

Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Romania and Albania, former members of the Warsaw Pact, joined NATO between the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century. Meanwhile, East Germany also became part of the alliance after reunification in 1990.

On the other hand, the Baltic countries Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia, independent from the USSR in 1991, joined NATO in 2004.

Medioambiente suffers consequences of the Russian invasion 3:42

Jens Stoltenberg, secretary general of NATO, said at the end of January that the countries have “the right to choose their own security agreements”, referring to the revenues in the last years of NATO, and that “Russia must abstain from adoptar posturas basadas en la fuerza coercitiva, una retórica agresiva”.

La guerra, al momento, parece estar teniendo resultados mixtos para Russia en este campo. Ukraine’s entry into NATO seems impossible in the actual context, but Finland, which shares a border with Russia, and Sweden presented their requests for entry into the Alliance, then the Russian invasion accelerated this process.

¿De qué se accuse Russia y la OTAN?

Putin accuses NATO of violating the Foundational Act of Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security between NATO and Russia, signed in 1997 as a reference point between both parties after the fall of the USSR, by deploying “offensive weapon systems on the borders” de Russia”, specifically in Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Poland.

La OTAN señala, en cambio, que ha cumplido con el Acta Fundacional, comprometienza a no desplegar fuerzas militares permanentes en los nuevos members son ni tampoco nuclear arms, dos de los pilares del accordion, y acusa en cambio a Moscú de incumpliemiento.

The 4,500 soldiers deployed in Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Poland are “rotative and defensive forces”, according to NATO, and arrived as a reaction to the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Soldiers leave their loved ones before taking a train to Dnipro from the main train terminal on March 09, 2022 in Lviv, Ukraine. (Credit: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

“Al signar el Acta Fundacional OTAN-Russia, Moscú se comprometió a no amenazar ni utilizar la fuerza contra los Allidas de la OTAN nor contra ningun otro Estado. Ha roto este compromiso, con la exição illegal e illegítima de Crimea, territorio de un Estado soberano. Russia also continues to support the militants in the east of Ukraine”, the Alliance expressed in an official communique.

The president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, has repeatedly called on NATO before declaring an air exclusion zone over the country.

Political changes in Ukraine

After gaining independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, Ukraine maintained tense relations with Russia, which began to worsen in the early 2000s.

In 2004, the candidate and ex-prime minister Viktor Yanukovich, supported by Russia, imposed ante on the opposition Viktor Yushchenko — pro-occidente — and won the presidential elections in the middle of accusations of fraud.

Ataques rusos en campos de trigo compromisen exportaciones 4:02

Una ola de demonstrations avanzó en todo el país. La llamada “Naranja Revolución”, por el color utilizado por los demonstrators y el de la campaña de Yushchenko, shook the country, y la Corte Suprema ordenó repetir las elecciones, en las que esta vez ganó Yushchenko.

Yanukóvich was finally elected president in 2010 —Yushchenko lost only 5% of the votes—, and in 2013 he abandoned the plans to bring Ukraine to the European Union under pressure from Russia, after which a new wave of protests began.

In February 2014, the Parliament of Ukraine voted to remove Yanukovich from the presidency, and the interim president Oleksandr Turchynov took over. Poco después, Russia annexed Crimea and began the conflict in Donbás.

Petro Poroshenko was elected president in 2014 and governed until 2019, when he assumed the current president Volodymyr Zelensky. Ambos son considerados prooccidente y contrarios a Moscú.

In this context, a regime change in Ukraine is seen as one of the Kremlin’s possible objectives.

Con información de Luke McGee, Anna Chernova, Zachary B. Wolf and Eliza Mackintosh.

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