On February 24, Vladimir Putin officially declared war on Ukraine.
The Russian leader, who has been the de facto head of state since January 1, 2000, has been waging a hybrid war on Ukraine for the past eight years. In March 2014, Putin illegally annexed the Crimean Peninsula, and in April sent troops into eastern Ukraine (known as Donbas) to provoke and support a separatist movement there. In May, the two regions of Donbas declared independence as the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics (abbreviated as DNR and LNR, respectively).
While the Donbas War has raged since 2014, with occupation forces committing countless ceasefire violations and killing over 14,000 Ukrainian soldiers and civilians since, tensions escalated substantially last year when Russia amassed nearly 100,000 troops along the border of Ukraine in November 2021. By December, US intelligence began warning that Moscow was preparing for a full-scale invasion of Ukraine with up to 175,000 troops.
On February 20, US intelligence reported that Russian forces had received actual orders to invade. The following day, Putin officially recognized the independence of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics in an address widely criticized as a blatantly false and propagandistic history lecture that cynically denied the very existence of Ukrainian statehood. Then, not long after recognizing the independence of the DNR and LNR, Putin ordered troops into Donetsk and Luhansk to perform “peacekeeping duties.”
Three days later, in his second fiery and propagandistic address that week, Putin officially declared war on Ukraine—what he termed a “special military operation”—with the stated goal of “protect[ing] people who have been subjected to bullying and genocide by the Kyiv regime for eight years… [and] the demilitarization and denazification of Ukraine.” Only minutes later, attacks began in several parts of Ukraine, including missile strikes in the capital, Kyiv.
The first week of full-scale war in Ukraine has seen shocking escalation and human rights violations by Russia, including indiscriminate shelling and missile strikes in residential areas across the country. On February 27, Putin ordered that Russian nuclear forces be put on high alert, citing NATO’s “aggressive statements” and the West’s rapid and strong sanctions. On March 2, Ukraine’s State Emergency Service reported that more than 2,000 Ukrainian civilians had been killed since the full-scale invasion began. That same day, the International Criminal Court opened an investigation into alleged war crimes in Ukraine dating back to 2013, and the United Nations General Assembly voted 141-5 to denounce the Russian invasion of Ukraine and demand that Russia withdraw all military forces.
Putin’s war on Ukraine has triggered the swiftest refugee crisis of this century, with the UN reporting on March 2 that over a million people—more than 2% of Ukraine’s population—had fled the country in less than a week.
Those who remain in Ukraine spend their days and nights in basements, bomb shelters, and subways—most of the country’s civilian population is now underground. In Kyiv alone, some 15,000 are sheltering in the subway. Essential operations have also transitioned to operate underground, including maternity wards; numerous reports have emerged of Russian forces shelling hospitals, Ukrainian mothers giving birth in bomb shelters and metro stations, and makeshift neonatal intensive care units being set up in underground bunkers.
To follow the war in Ukraine:
English-language coverage from Ukraine: The Kyiv Independent
Fastest updates: The Kyiv Independent’s Telegram channel
Please consider donating to Liberty Lexington’s Stand with Ukraine Fundraiser. All contributions will be given to non-profit organizations providing relief on the ground in Ukraine. Please use the link below to learn more and contribute. https://uncommongood.io/fundraisers/standwithukraine