From Tensions to Turmoil: Unfolding the Ukraine-Russian War (Part 1) (GP Topic: Politics)

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The Ukraine War has emerged as a defining moment in contemporary history, profoundly altering the global landscape. This conflict between Russia and Ukraine has transcended its regional origins to become a pivotal event with far-reaching consequences across the international stage. The ramifications of this protracted conflict extend beyond territorial disputes and military engagements, touching upon issues of global security, geopolitical realignments, and the principles that underpin the international order. As we delve into the chronology of events, it becomes apparent that the war has unleashed a cascade of transformative changes, reshaping alliances, challenging established norms, and raising critical questions about the future of geopolitics.

Prelude, 2021

November 2021: Reports surfaced of the unusual movement of Russian troops near Ukraine borders. There was a build up of around 92,000 Russian troops.

December 2021: Joe Biden warns Vladimir Putin that the US would take strong economic measures, amongst others, if Russia attacks Ukraine. Putin also proposes a prohibition of Ukraine’s joining of NATO, which Ukraine rejected. 

Escalation, 2022

17 January 2022:
Russian troops arrive in Belarus (Russian Ally), under the guise of “military exercises.”

25 January 2022:
Russian exercises take place in Russia near Ukraine and Crimea, involving 6,000 troops and 60 jets.

10 February 2022:
Russia and Belarus begin 10 days of military manoeuvres

17 February 2022:
Fighting escalates in separatist regions of eastern Ukraine.

24 February 2022:
Putin orders his troops into Ukraine. Putin announces on Russian state television that he has launched a “special military operation” to “demilitarise” and “denazify” Ukraine. Ukraine, despite being outnumbered and ordered to surrender by approaching Russians, were determined to fight back. A small group of Ukrainian troops in Snake Island refused to surrender and hurled profanities by radio to a Russian warship.

25 February 2022:
Ukraine leaders film a video in response to rumours that Ukraine leadership were fleeing the country. Biden offered a US offer to evacuate, but Zelensky responded with “I need ammunition, not a ride.” 

2 March 2022:

Thousands of Ukrainian civilians fled the country. The United Nations’ refugee agency (UNHCR) said that at least 100,000 people had left their homes in the first 24 hours of the military assault. The refugees arrive at the Polish border. 

9 March 2022:
Mariupol maternity hospital was hit by a Russian missile, despite Russia agreeing to a 12 hour pause in hostilities to allow refugees to evacuate. 

16 March 2022:

Mariupol theatre was hit with bombings. An estimate alleged that 1,300 people took shelter there. Around 300 died. It was one of the most brazen Russian attacks on civilians. 

1 April 2022:

Russian troops withdrew from Bucha, leaving behind bodies of civilians scattered around a single street there. This prompted Russia to be investigated for war crimes. Russia responded that the images were fabricated. However, experts from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe found severe beaches of international humanitarian law by Russian forces.

1 September 2022: 

The Ukrainian counter offensive in eastern Ukraine recaptured large portions of territory and forced Russian troops out of Kharkiv. 

September 21 2022:

After mounting losses in Ukraine, Putin announced Russia’s first mobilisation since WWII. 

8 October 2022:
The only bridge connecting Russia with Crimea was hit by an explosion. This strategically important Crimean bridge was a devastating blow to Moscow.

10 October 2022:

Russia launched waves of missile attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure in Kyiv. This left large regions of Ukraine without power and water. 

November 12, 2022:

After 8 months of Russian occupation, Kherson was liberated, prompting celebrations. This was embarrassing for Russia as Putin formally declared it to be Russian territory just weeks prior to their withdrawal and defeat. 

Watershed, 2023

25 January 2023:
Germany announced that it would provide Leopard 2 tanks to Kyiv and allow other European countries to export them. Biden would send 31 M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine. This was a breakthrough as Ukraine’s ability to reclaim occupied territory was bolstered significantly. 

28 February 2023: 

It was reported that Russian combat deaths in Ukraine have exceeded all its post-WWII wars combined. Russia has also lost huge numbers of tanks, leaving its military increasingly dependent on infantry attacks. Meanwhile, Ukraine’s army has fought primarily from defensive positions, coming up with new methods of fighting that “improve the efficiency” of its forces. 

18 March 2023:
The International Criminal Court announces its decision to issue an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin over alleged war crimes committed during his invasion of Ukraine. The warrant is the first time the ICC, a body of the United Nations, has taken such a measure against a leader whose country is a permanent member of the Security Council. 

30 March 2023:

It was reported by Ukraine’s prosecutor general that nearly 500 children have died due to the war up till this point. 

1 April 2023:

Russia assumes the UN Security Council presidency, Ukrainian foreign minister describes it as a “bad joke.” Russia is a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council and holds veto authority on any measure proposed before the international forum. According to the U.N. charter, the primary responsibility of the Security Council is the maintenance of international peace and security. 

7 April 2023:

Kyiv disclosed willingness to negotiate with Russia over the Crimean Peninsula that Moscow illegally annexed in 2014. This would take place if Ukrainian forces reach Crimea’s “administrative border.”

2 June 2023:
Ukraine fends off 36 Russian air attacks around the capital, while pro-Kyiv Russian fighters were battling Russian forces for a second day within Russia.

3 June 2023: 

Ukraine’s plans for a counteroffensive against Russian occupation remain on track. The Russian border region of Belgorod, located near Ukraine, is experiencing intensified attacks and shelling, which has caused deepening anxiety among Russian civilians. Shebekino, a town just 9km from the border, has become a new part of the front line due to increased attacks by Ukrainian forces and militia groups aligned against Moscow. The attacks have led to the largest military evacuation effort in Russia in decades, with thousands of residents leaving the affected areas. The shelling has caused significant damage and destruction in Shebekino, turning the once vibrant town into an empty and shattered place. The response from the local government has been criticised, leading residents to rely on each other for support and highlighting the grassroots civic spirit that has been undermined by the central government in recent years. 

The attacks have caused a reevaluation of support for the war among Russian residents, who are growing resentful of the authorities for failing to protect them. The violence is causing a disruption in daily life and breeding resentment, and many residents feel that Moscow doesn’t understand or care about their situation. The violence has created a realisation among border residents that the war is likely to continue with no end in sight. The destruction caused by the conflict has led some residents to question the purpose of Russia’s annexation of Ukrainian territories and has changed their attitude towards the Ukrainian armed forces.

For A Level GP Paper 1, these events may be useful to describe the devastation that wars bring, how much it costs the world, in order to argue for more amicable and preventive measures such as international cooperation and soft power. The strong and resilient stance Ukrainians have adopted can also be used in broader societal essays surrounding values, to show how important mindsets are in the face of adversity even amidst unfavourable odds.

Stay tuned for Part 2!

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