Putin Invades Ukraine, Met With Cascade of Sanctions and Resistance

The Russian government began a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Feb 24, 2022. His presumed reasoning is to overrun Ukraine and get rid of the government, preventing Ukraine from joining the NATO alliance. So far, almost $63 billion of damages have been recorded by the Kyiv School of Economics, and more than 1,000 civilians have been killed in the conflict, according to the United Nations (UN). Recently, Russia promised to “scale down” military operations around Kyiv and Chernihiv. According to the UN, 10 million refugees have fled from their homes in Ukraine. More than 3.5 million have left the country, while 6.5 million people have been displaced within Ukraine. The United States and many other countries have both placed sanctions against Russia in response to the invasion.

The Biden administration has sanctioned many of the largest companies in Russia, all of which have ties to the Russian government. These include Sberbank, a primary financial institution in Russia, and VTB Bank Public Joint Stock Company (VTB Bank). Russian financial institutions like these two conduct roughly $46 billion worth of global transactions every day, according to the US Treasury, with 80% of those transactions using U.S. dollars. 

“Prohibitions against U.S. trade or investment in Russia-occupied regions of eastern Ukraine and sanctions against those who operate in those regions,” are included as well, according to the U.S. House of Representatives’s Committee on Financial Services.

The U.S. has sanctioned Nord Stream 2 AG, a company attempting to construct a natural gas pipeline through the Baltic Sea connecting Russia to Germany.

The U.S. also sanctioned a number of Russian elites after the invasion. These elites include President Vladimir Putin, Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov, Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu, and Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces Valery Gerasimov, according to a U.S. Treasury statement. Other sanctions were imposed on wealthy Russian elites, many of whom are “oligarchs.” These members of the Russian aristocracy have close ties to Putin and have attained vast financial success through work with the Kremlin.

Russia’s and Belarus’s current position on export controls that were recently imposed were described as “the most comprehensive application of Commerce’s export authorities on U.S. items,” according to the U.S. Commerce Department. New controls on exports from the U.S. Commerce commenced restrictions on “sensitive U.S. technologies produced in foreign countries using U.S.-origin software, technology, or equipment.” The controls listed intend to limit the abilities of foreign manufacturers to export “semiconductors, telecommunication, encryption security, lasers, sensors, navigation avionics and maritime technologies” to Russia. They added “export controls on oil and gas extraction equipment,” according to the White House memo.

Franklin High School Economics and Government teacher, Mark Zimtbaum, helps explain the purpose of sanctions. “Sanctions are restrictions one country puts on another country because they want them to change something. The purpose of sanctions is to change a country’s behavior.” Sanctions may last as long as the country wants them to; both countries no longer do any business while sanctions are in effect. “Just like most countries we all buy and sell stuff to each other. Russia mainly sells resources like natural gas, oil and metals.” The sanctioned country can also create sanctions in retaliation. “They can be sanctioned back. Basically not trade stuff with the U.S. or Europe.”

Other entities that have been involved in sanctions include the European Union (EU), Switzerland, Japan, and many more, according to Reuters. 

The German federal government, led by Chancellor Olaf Scholz, has been cutting itself off from Russian oil dependency. They suspended their certification of the Nord Stream 2, which would have given Germany a source of energy from Russia.

Satellite images from October and November 2021 had captured Russian tanks, aircrafts, armored vehicles and Russian troops deployed along the eastern border of Ukraine, no explanation provided from Putin. In December, Putin demanded that NATO decline Ukraine’s entry into the alliance and that NATO must reduce military presence in nearby countries. More than 100,000 Russian troops were in place near the Russia-Ukraine border. The U.S. and others threatened Russia with sanctions in the event of an invasion in Ukraine.

On Jan. 23, the US began to evacuate certain staffers based in Kyiv, according to Reuters. On Jan. 27, Biden suggested that Russia could invade in February. Members of Chinese leadership defended Russia’s plan, telling the U.S. that Russia has “legitimate security concerns,” according to the BBC. On Jan. 28, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenkskyy worried that Western “panic” could harm Ukraine’s economy, according to the BBC. On Feb. 1, Putin said that “it is already clear that fundamental Russian concerns ended up being ignored.” He suggested the Russian government was not planning an invasion. On Feb. 8, the French government aimed to calm the situation down, but Russian spokesperson Dmitry Peskov suggested that this was unlikely, saying that “in the current situation, Moscow and Paris can’t be reaching any deals,” according to the Associated Press (AP). On Feb. 10, UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had a discussion, but Lavrov recounted the meeting as “a conversation between a mute and a deaf person,” per the New York Times

On Feb. 16, NATO prepared commanders to deploy battlegroups in the region, not believing in the chance of Russia de-escalating. On Feb 23, a Ukrainian national state of emergency was approved due to the Russian threat, Moscow evacuated the Kyiv embassy, and Washington warned of the potential for a Russian military operation. On Feb. 24, the Russian military led an attack on Ukraine, while Putin demanded that the nearby countries’ armies lay down all weapons. On March 2, the Ukrainian city of Kherson became the first city to fall since the attack. 

On March 4, the Russian military seized Zaporizhzhya, Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, reported BBC News. 

On March 6, Ukraine said Russia was targeting civilians. The Russian military had been shelling four cities: Kharkiv, Mykolaiv and Mariupol, and the outskirts of the capital, Kyiv. On March 8, Some civilians fled the Ukrainian town of Sumy. Supply routes and hospitals were attacked in the city of Mariupol. The U.S. Congress decided to contribute $13.6 billion in spending for Ukrainian refugees and military forces. The day after, a Russian ceasefire helped some civilians escape the cities of Kyiv, Kharkiv, Mariupol, Chernihiv, and Sumy. On March 13, Russia continued its targets westward, firing 30 cruise missiles at a military training base in Yavori; 35 people were killed and 134 were injured in the base attack. On March 15, Ukraine’s government stated that 20,000 civilians in Mariupol had managed to evacuate the besieged city through a corridor, according to the AP. Viktor Zolotov, an aide of Vladimir Putin, has admitted the war in Ukraine has not gone entirely as planned.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is an alliance of many North American and European countries intended to protect its members from invasion. NATO has admitted other countries bordering Russia, including the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, all formerly part of the Soviet Republic, according to the Los Angeles Times. In 2008, NATO eventually admitted Ukraine. Vladimir Putin viewed the possibility of Ukraine’s alliance with NATO as an act against Russia. Ukraine became independent from the Soviet Union in a landslide vote in 1991.

In 2014, The Ukrainian people ousted a Russian sympathizer president who would not sign an agreement with the EU. Russia’s response was to invade the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea, and to provoke a separatist rebellion in eastern Ukraine. In February 2015, a ceasefire agreement was signed, but 14,000 Ukrainians died in conflict, and 1.5 million civilians are still displaced in parts of Ukraine.

Minsk Agreement: Two peace agreements, known as Minsk I and II, have key issues remaining unresolved and have not been fully implemented. Minsk I was drafted in 2014 by Ukraine, Russia, and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). It was later signed in September 2014 for an immediate ceasefire. The agreement failed to stop fighting altogether, so a revised and updated agreement was signed, known as Minsk II, in Feb. 2015. Ukraine agreed to grant some autonomy to separatist regions in exchange for a ceasefire.

Earlier in Putin’s presidency, he led the Russian government to invade the regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia in Georgia. The conflict lasted five days in 2008 and led to Russia almost reaching Georgia’s capital of Tbilisi.

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