- Live Follow the last hour of the crisis
- Putin’s challenge Chernbyl, a radioactive trench on the way to Kiev
All eyes in the world are on the border between Ukraine Y Russia. Moscow continues to accumulate troops to the east, without relenting in its warmongering rhetoric; the OTAN announces an increase in ships, planes and soldiers on the internal borders of the Alliance and USA puts 8,500 soldiers on alert. As the days go by and despite calls from Washington and its allies for calm, the tension is far from easing. But to understand how it got here, you have to go back several years. Specifically, until 2013, the year it all started.
November of 2013
The President of Ukraine, Vctor Yanukovych (pro-Russian) suspends the signing of an association agreement with the European Union. A day later, groups of university students demonstrate in Kiev against the government. Day after day, the protests are becoming more and more massive. Independence Square (Maidan) in Kiev becomes a symbol and baptizes this movement of discontent. Since then, the division in two of Ukrainian society – pro-Russian and pro-European – is evident.
February, March and April 2014
Protests spread across Ukraine and turn violent. Nearly a hundred people die.. President Yanukovych leaves the country and Parliament approves his dismissal. Meanwhile, on the Crimean peninsula – clashes between pro-Russian and pro-Ukrainian militants break out. In the last days of February, groups of armed men seize the Crimean airport and several government buildings, such as the Parliament, where be the Russian flag. The Russian army enters the peninsula.
Under accusations of fraud, a referendum is held on the annexation of Crimea. The “s” wins with 97% of the votes while the Western countries and the UN reject the referendum and brand it as “illegal”. days later, Putin signs the annexation treaty of Crimea. In response, the leaders of the G8 (the most powerful countries in the world) Russia is expelled from the group. The G8 becomes the G7.
In April 2014, the events in Crimea are replicated in eastern Ukraine, in the Donbas region. A war breaks out between the Ukrainian army and pro-Russian separatists, aided by Moscow. According to the UN, that unresolved conflict has since caused more than 14,000 dead on both sides.
After a first attempt, in September 2014, which failed, the rulers of Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine (baptized as the ‘Normandy Quartet’), are trying to put an end to the Donbas war with the Minsk agreements, and under the mandate of the Special Observation Mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) A ceasefire is agreed, which will be violated shortly after.
From 2017 to 2019
In February 2017, Russia responds to a message from the US president, Donald Trump, and assures that never return Crimea to Ukraine.
In September of that same year, The Association Agreement between the European Union and Ukraine enters into force, which includes a free trade agreement and aims to deepen political and economic ties between the two parties.
Since 2016, attempts to resolve the Donbas war have barely borne fruit. In December 2019, another Summit of the Normandy Quartet is held in Paris. One of the few advances is the exchange of 200 prisoners between Moscow and Kiev, that same month.
In a television interview, US President Joe Biden is asked if he thinks Vladimir Putin is a murderer. “I think so,” Biden replies. His words anticipate an escalation of tension between the two countries. Russia, in response, temporarily withdraws its ambassador to the US, Anatoly Antonov.
Kiev denounces the concentration of more than 100,000 Russian soldiers in the region. According to Washington, it is the largest Russian troop buildup on the Ukraine border since the 2014 conflict. At the time, Moscow says it is conducting exercises in response to NATO’s “threatening military activities” near its borders.
This same month, the White House imposes sanctions on Russia (for its interference in the US elections) and announces that it will deport 10 employees of the Russian embassy in Washington. Russia responds with another 10 expulsions of US diplomats.
On the 16th, Putin and Biden meet in Geneva and note their differences on several issues, mainly human rights and cyber attacks. The summit concludes with few results. On the 23rd, Russia fired warning shots at a British ship in the Black Sea, near the Crimean peninsula, days before NATO naval exercises in the same place. On the 20th Putin assures that Western military support for Ukraine creates “significant security problems” for Russia.
On December 2021, the Washington Post reports that Russia is preparing an offensive against Ukraine with up to 175,000 soldiers in early 2022. On December 16, the EU warns that any aggression against Ukraine will have a high cost for Russia. A week later, at his annual press conference, Vladimir Putin (who fears that Ukraine will become a member of NATO), insists that the expansion of the Alliance to the east is unacceptable, and asks the West for “security guarantees”. .
Russians and Americans decide to launch the diplomatic route and begin, on the 10th, a first round of negotiations in Geneva. During the NATO Council in Brussels, on the 12th, the irreconcilable differences between the Alliance and Moscow are revealed.
January 14. Ukrainian authorities blame Russia for a massive cyber attack. On the same day, the US accuses Russia of carrying out a “false flag attack” on Ukraine to create a “pretext” for an invasion.
January 18. Russia carries out maneuvers in Belarus while the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, travels to Europe and begins a new round of diplomatic contacts to try to de-escalate the crisis.
January 19. Blinken, who is already in Ukraine, evokes the possibility that the US will qualify the consequences of a “minor incursion” by Russia. The White House comes out to correct him and the Secretary of State then assures that any aggression will receive “a severe and united response” from the US and its allies.
January 21st. Lavrov and Blinken meet in Geneva and manage to buy some time. The Russian Foreign Minister says that they are not going to attack Ukraine, and announces that the US has promised to respond in writing to their security demands. Blinken offers dialogue but warns that he will respond if there is an invasion.
January 23. Washington announces the repatriation of the families of its diplomats in Ukraine, given the risk of Russia invading that country, it recommends its citizens to leave Ukraine. Other countries, such as the United Kingdom, replicate this measure.
January 24. The tension escalates again. The US admits the possibility of sending the military to Eastern Europe and the Baltic countries; NATO announces that it is reinforcing its eastern flank, while Russia denounces the “hysteria” of the West. For the Kremlin, the responsibility for the tension in Eastern Europe falls on the US and its allies
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George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism