Search icon


24th Feb 2022

Explained: Here is everything you need to know as Russia invades Ukraine

Katy Brennan

A quick breakdown of the Russia-Ukraine crisis.

Russia’s long-predicted invasion of Ukraine has officially begun.

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister says Russia has launched a “full scale invasion”.

Russian President Vladimir Putin says he has started a “specialised military operation” in the country.

And some world leaders believe Russia’s actions could lead to the most devastating conflict Europe has seen since World War II.

So, what is actually happening?

Why is there conflict?

The tension between Russia and Ukraine has been building for a long time and the history between the two countries is a complicated one. To put things into context and understand what is happening now, we have to go back a bit.

In 1991, after the fall of the Soviet Union, Ukraine became an independent state.

In 2014, Ukraine’s pro-Russian president was replaced with a Western-favouring government.

Around this time, Russia invaded Ukraine, annexed the region of Crimea, and triggered a rebellion in the east. There has been armed conflict between Ukrainian forces and separatists in the east ever since.

Since then, the government of Ukraine has strengthened its relations with the West. It aspires to join the European Union and NATO.

This seriously angers Putin, who does not want to see the EU or NATO expand their influence eastward – he views this as a threat to Russia.

In December, Russia demanded that Ukraine never be admitted to NATO. It has blamed – and continues to blame – Ukraine for aggravating tensions.

What is the current situation?

Russian forces launched an attack on Ukraine on Thursday morning. Loud explosions were heard across the capital of Kyiv and Russian troops were seen entering the country across the border.

Ukraine’s interior ministry confirmed that Kyiv was under attack from cruise and ballistic missiles.

Putin has urged Ukrainian troops to stand down and vowed to retaliate against any countries that interfere with Russia’s operation.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has declared martial law and urged all citizens to stay in their homes.

Many Ukrainians are fearing for their lives  and have started to flee the country, with many beginning to cross the border into Poland.

What does Putin want and will there be an all-out war in Europe?

Putin has always maintained that the fall of the Soviet Union was a “catastrophe” and wants to rebuild Russia’s power and influence.

Essentially, what is happening in Ukraine acts as a stage for Russia to attempt to assert its power in Europe and the rest of the world.

What Russia’s actions here mean for the rest of Europe is still unclear. However, many close watchers of Putin do believe he has a bigger plan in mind.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said earlier this week that what Russia is doing could result in the “the biggest war in Europe since 1945”.

But at this time, whatever Putin has started is still unfolding.

What we do know is, the conflict has the potential to create hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing across Europe to escape violence in Ukraine.

How has the rest of the world reacted?

Several world leaders have condemned Russia’s actions. Taoiseach Michael Martin said Russia will pay “a high price for this outrageous act of aggression”.

“I utterly condemn, in the strongest possible terms, Russia’s indefensible attack on the sovereign people of Ukraine,” he said. “Our first thoughts are with them. We will work with our EU partners and at the UN to hold President Putin and his regime accountable.”

US President Joe Biden called it an “unprovoked and unjustified attack” that could cause “catastrophic loss of life and human suffering”.

British PM Boris Johnson said he is appalled by the horrific events and has spoken to President Zelenskyy to discuss the next steps.

“President Putin has chosen a path of bloodshed and destruction by launching this unprovoked attack on Ukraine,” he said. “The UK and our allies will respond decisively.”

Meanwhile, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Putin “is responsible for bringing war back to Europe”.