Russian troops from the direction of Belarus entered an area near the former nuclear power plant Chernobyl on Thursday, an adviser to Ukraine’s interior minister said, as fighting continued across the country.
Where have Russian troops attacked and why?
Airports and military headquarters were hit first, near cities across Ukraine, including the main Boryspil international airport in Kyiv. Then tanks and troops rolled into Ukraine in the north-east, near Kharkiv, a city of 1.4 million people; in the east near Luhansk, and from neighbouring Belarus in the north. Russian troops landed in Ukraine’s big port cities of Odesa and Mariupol too.
Moments before the invasion began, President Putin went on TV declaring that Russia could not feel “safe, develop and exist” because of what he called a constant threat from modern Ukraine.
WHO raises alarm over potential humanitarian catastrophe
The World Health Organization (WHO) has voiced alarm over an expected health emergency in Ukraine.
“Amid the conflict rapidly unfolding in Ukraine, the WHO Regional Office for Europe reiterates its deepest concern for the safety, health and wellbeing of all civilians impacted by the crisis in the country and possibly beyond,” the office said in a statement, warning any further escalation could result in a humanitarian catastrophe.
The European arm of the world health body added it was working closely “with all UN partners in rapidly scaling up readiness to respond to the expected health emergency triggered by the conflict”.
The crisis in Ukraine began with protests in the capital city of Kyiv in November 2013 against Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s decision to reject a deal for greater economic integration with the European Union. After a violent crackdown by state security forces unintentionally drew an even greater number of protesters and escalated the conflict, President Yanukovych fled the country in February 2014.
The conflict is about the future of Ukraine. But Ukraine is also a larger stage for Russia to try to reassert its influence in Europe and the world, and for Putin to cement his legacy. These are no small things for Putin, and he may decide that the only way to achieve them is to launch another incursion into Ukraine — an act that, at its most aggressive, could lead to tens of thousands of civilian deaths, a European refugee crisis, and a response from Western allies that includes tough sanctions affecting the global economy.
With an ideological basis for action in place, the next step is to create a casus belli—justification for war—consistent with the Kremlin-manufactured image of Ukraine. Pretexts for an attack could range from a straightforward breakdown of security talks to a stage-managed incident similar to the provocations at Mukden, Gleiwitz, and Mainila . This is why the bizarre claim of Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu posted on the Kremlin’s official website of Ukraine is ominous and might foreshadow just the type of “incident” the Kremlin would prepare.
Once there is a casus belli, cyberattacks will likely follow to degrade Ukraine’s military command and control systems and public communications and electrical grids. Next, kinetic operations will likely begin with air and missile strikes against Ukraine’s air force and air defense systems. Once air superiority is established, Russian ground forces would move forward, slightly preceded by special operations to degrade further command and control capabilities and delay the mobilization of reserves .