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Why Russia Wants to Annex Ukraine

Weeks since Russian tanks and army stormed into Ukrainian cities, the world is still grappling with why Russia wants to annex Ukraine. With every counting day, Ukrainian cities lapse into Russian hands one after the other, and numerous debates sparkle on what Putin wants in Ukraine.


Tracing back the two countries' history, Ukraine was part of the soviet republic. After the collapse of the USSR, Ukraine became an independent state in 1991. Ukraine inherited a majority of the nuclear arsenal after independence. Ukraine handed over the atomic weaponry to Russia in 1994 on the condition that Russia would protect the security and sovereignty of Ukraine.


 


The then Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanukovych, was heavy-handed and corrupt. He rejected an EU deal that could have brought Ukraine closer to Europe and opted for a 15-billion-dollar bailout from Russia. There was considerable public outrage due to this settlement. People of Ukraine started protesting in the streets; this event was popularly known as Euromaidan. The people wanted the president to sign the EU deal or step down from power. Russia supported the president while the west supported the protestors.


 


In February 2014, the government was toppled, and the president fled to Russia. It is said that many Ukrainians were unhappy with this. Russian-speaking Ukrainians in the east wanted Yanukovych back.


Subsequently, Russia invaded Crimea, a peninsula in the south. The separatists started to take control of the Donbas region, a region with a majority of Russia speaking citizens.


The tensions in the Donbas region escalated when the rebels shot down a Malaysian passenger airline in 2014.


 


The Ukrainian army decided to flush out the rebels due to this incident. The Russian military invaded Donbas, and meetings with the two countries' leaders resulted in the Minsk agreement. Russia and Ukraine agreed to military withdrawal and new elections in the region. Many years since the deal and Minsk remains unimplemented.


 


There is still unrest in the Donbas region of Ukraine; most people are Russian-speaking and want to join Russia. The remaining of Ukraine are pro-west and wish to be united with Europe. The majority of Ukrainians on the western frontier wish to join NATO. Putin eyes this as a significant threat to Russian borders in the south. Russia wants NATO to stop expanding by excluding every country previously part of the soviet republic.


 


In 2019, Volodymyr Zelensky won a landslide victory and became the president of Ukraine. He is a top critic of Russia and opposes the Russian occupation of eastern Ukraine. He has been competing with Russian demands of rejecting joining NATO. Since the war broke out, Zelensky has been pleading for a cease-fire, support from the world to intervene in this war, and talking to Russia to stop the invasion. Zelensky now seems to agree to Russian demands of rejecting to join NATO, though his efforts seem to go in vain.


 


It seems too late to mediate with Russia; Russian forces don't seem to stop until they have gained everything there is to gain from the war. The west pushed Ukraine too far and into war and struggled to stop this war. On the other hand, Ukraine is asking every country it can for support to stop this war. This war affects India and other countries in the world, too, in a big way. If SWIFT, the online financial network, gets jammed due to this war, countries using this network like India have to look for other alternatives. If India falls out with the west during this war, companies like Google, which has a 62 % share in email accounts, could bring the country to a standstill.


 


The US leadership has failed in stopping this war. Biden doesn't seem to hold talks with Putin to stall this war. On the other hand, Biden's virtual meeting with Xi Jinping has also ended in light. Though Xi Jinping had agreed to respect the sovereignty of all independent states, it holds the US responsible for this war. It expects the US to resolve all crises between Russia and Ukraine. Xi Jinping accounts the US trying to get Ukraine among its NATO countries as the primary reason for this war.


 


The middle east seems to be close to Russia and benefits from the sanctions imposed by the US on Russia. There is news of Saudi Arabia considering pricing its oil in the Chinese currency Yuan for sales. The west seems to be on the backfoot, while India carefully maneuvers through this crisis by choosing not to oppose Russia outrightly. Ukraine waits for a cease-fire, and the world hopes for a resolution through peace talks between the two countries.


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