Why did Russia Invade Ukraine?
The root cause possibly has its origin in the 1991 separation of Ukraine as an independent country when the former USSR split into several smaller countries. It is reported that Russian President Vladimir Putin has angst against Ukraine on this account. Consequent to Ukraine’s independence in 1991, the erstwhile USSR (now Russia) had no influence in the affairs of Ukraine and perceived it as a loss of its power. Ukraine’s ambitions and efforts to develop into a modern, independent democratic country similar to the European nations were not seen in a good light by Russia. The Russian population, including the erstwhile Ukrainians amongst them, particularly perceive this development and the lack of the same within Russia. The ruling elite in Russia perceived this as a threat, leading to its citizens’ expectations of a better democratic rule.
The Russian president, it is reported, saw an opportunity after the earlier Crimea annexation, and given the poor coordination amongst American and European nations to cohesively act. This opportunity was used to launch a major military attack. The Russian military expected the invasion to be short and swift action to annex Ukraine in a few days, possibly being an extension of the earlier war.
Ukraine also had its turmoil earlier during 2013-14 after Ukraine’s Revolution of Dignity, also known as Euromaidan. During this revolution, citizens protested widely and wanted to knit a close relationship with Europe. This led to the defeat of then-president Viktor Yanukovych, who had asked Russia for help to put down the protests.
During this period, Russia illegally annexed Crimea, a section of Ukraine that touches the Russian border on the Black Sea. In addition, the Russian-speaking cities of Donetsk and Luhansk in the eastern part of Ukraine were supplied with military personnel, mercenaries, and other resources to support Russia in the Russian-speaking cities.
Is the invasion tied to Russia’s annexation of Crimea?
Crimea in Ukraine was the only city to have a majority of Russians at the time of the USSR breakup. Still, 55% of the peninsula’s citizens voted for the independence of Ukraine.
Putin was of the mistake that by annexing Crimea through an armed uprising in the Donbas, he could shake the unity of the Ukrainians and have the southern and eastern provinces of the country break away from the Kyiv government and seek to join the Russian Federation as a separate territory termed as Novorossiya, or “New Russia.”
Since that failed to happen, the current invasion is an attempt to achieve a similar end on a massive scale.
How ‘Russian’ is Ukraine?
According to the complete census taken in 2001, 17.3 per cent of the citizens of independent Ukraine identified themselves as ethnic Russians. This was a 5% decline from 1989, proving a migration of Russians after the split from the USSR.
There was also a change of identity among Ukrainians who had claimed to be ethnically Russian in the late Soviet period when it was advantageous to do so but later reverted to being part of Ukraine when it became independent.