Trying to give a historical background for the Russian invasion of Ukraine is very problematic as events may have little meaning in understanding the attack, but rather a deep understanding of Vladimir Putin is probably what is needed since ultimately the invasion was unprovoked and happened due to completely false claims and reports of false events. Similar to the Nazi's invasion of Poland in 1939, Putin invaded because he wanted to gain control of Ukraine, which he considers an integral part of Russia. Furthermore, Putin seems intent on turning back history and undoing the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1989. In a long rambling speech on February 22, he called Ukraine a fake nation. He also revisited all of his grievances against the West in a genuinely frightening address. He then went on to recognize the separatist areas of Donetsk and Luhansk. The next day he ordered his troops to invade ostensibly to stop the fake massacre of ethnic Russians and to "deNazify" a country whose President is Jewish.
While we could go back into history when Imperial Russia made Ukraine part of Russia or examine the many attempts of Ukraine to achieve Independence, we will begin with the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
On December 21, 1991, representatives of 11 former Soviet Republics met in Alma Ata and signed the founding "Declaration of the Commonwealth of Independent States." At that moment, Ukraine's Independence was recognized by Russia. However, the dissolution of the Soviet Union resulted in several loose ends; one of the largest ones was that in Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus, nuclear weapons that had belonged to the Soviet Union were left behind. Those countries agreed under the terms of the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances to give up their nuclear weapons and return them to Russia. In return, Russia, the US, and Great Britain recognized their borders and pledged not to undermine them in any way.
In 1999 Vladamir Putin, a former KGB agent, replaced Boris Yeltsin as President of the Russian Federation. Putin followed a more aggressive foreign and domestic policy.
In 2008 when the former Soviet Republic of Georgia began to explore membership in NATO, the Russians intervened on the side of Russian separatists. The result, Georgia backed away from its interest in joining NATO.
In 2014 Viktor Yanukovych, who was the leader of Ukraine and considered very pro-Russian, was forced from office when he acceded to Russian demands that Ukraine end talks to become a member of the European Union. Russia under Putin responded by seizing Crimea by force and creating a breakaway movement in Donetsk and Luhansk.
No known trigger began the recent set of events that culminated in the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The first public hint of trouble came on November 10, 2021, when the United States reported unusual Russian military activity near the Ukrainian border. On November 28, it was reported that Russia had amassed 82,000 troops along the border and was planning to invade Ukraine in January of February.
On December 7, US President Biden threatened Russia with stiff economic sanctions if he invaded Ukraine.
On December 17, the Russian issued a list of demands that included withdrawing NATO weapons from Eastern Europe and guaranteeing that Ukraine would never join NATO. The West rejected most of the Russian demands while agreeing to negotiate on some of them.
On January 17, 2022, Russian troops began to arrive in Belarus for what is described as military maneuvers. Belarus shares a border with Ukraine and is closest to the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv.
On January 19, the US announced an additional $200 million in security assistance for Ukraine.
On January 24, NATO announced that its troops would be on standby. On the following day, the Russians began maneuvers near the Ukrainian borders.
On January 28, Putin spoke, claiming that NATO has ignored the legitimate security needs of
On February 10, the Russians began ten days of military maneuvers in Belarus.
On February 15, the Russians claimed that some troops were returning to their regular bases. However, the United States and other allied sources said it was not true.
French President Macron met with Putin on February 21 in Moscow and received his approval in principle for a summit with US President Biden. However, after Macron made the announcement, Russia said it was too early, and the White House was noncommittal.
On February 22, Russian President Vladimir Putin gave a televised speech. He said he was recognizing the Independence and sovereignty of the Donetsk People's Republic and the Luhansk People's Republic. He went on to say that Ukraine was not a real country and threatened NATO if it should interfere.
On Thursday night, February 24, Putin gave a special address and announced that military action in Ukraine had begun. At the moment he was speaking, the Russian invasion began.