The big story: Ukraine and Russia at war

It’s happened. 

Last week we had told you that many in Ukraine had breathed a sigh of relief when the looming war with Russia was delayed. But by Tuesday, things had already started heating up: Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that he formally recognised separatist regions of Ukraine led by pro-Russian rebels, further provoking his neighbour. Russia then sent troops into those territories to “protect” them in what Putin called a “peacekeeping mission”. 

Today many parts of the world, including South Africa, woke up to news that Russia had invaded parts of Ukraine and launched missiles at cities, including the capital, Kyiv. Putin said in a live television broadcast that his aim was the “de-Nazification of Ukraine” and that if other countries tried to interfere, there might be “consequences they have never seen”. Moments after the broadcast, Russian forces fired missiles at several Ukrainian cities. By about 3pm today 40 Ukrainian soldiers and ten civilians had reportedly been killed. 😣

As we explained last week: Tensions have ratcheted up since Russia amassed 130 000 troops at the Ukrainian border late last year, sparking alarm over Europe’s bloodiest conflict in decades. Russia has long stewed about its former Soviet republic Ukraine becoming increasingly friendly with the west and potentially joining NATO –  a military alliance of more than 30 Western countries started after World War 2. This would threaten Russia’s dominance in the region. 

 In 2014 Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine as part of the ongoing conflict between the two. 

The US and UK have condemned Putin’s latest actions and many countries are urging their citizens to either take cover or move out of the war zones. At the time of writing NATO was (urgently, we hope!) deciding how to respond.

Ukraine has asked the United Nations to step in and do anything possible to stop the war. It has also asked the international community to “act immediately”, starting with new sanctions against Russia and military equipment to support its defence. We watch and wait. 😓

This article appeared as part of The Wrap, 24 February 2022. Sign up to receive our weekly updates.