By air, land, and sea, Russia has launched a devastating attack on Ukraine, a European democracy of 44 million people. Its forces are bombing city centres and closing in on the capital, Kyiv, prompting a mass exodus of refugees.
For months, President Vladimir Putin denied he would invade his neighbour, but then he tore up a peace deal and unleashed what Germany calls “Putin’s war”, pouring forces into Ukraine’s north, east and south.
As the number of dead climbs, Russia’s leader stands accused of shattering peace in Europe. What happens next could jeopardise the continent’s entire security structure.
Why have Russian troops attacked?
In a pre-dawn TV address on 24 February, President Putin declared Russia could not feel “safe, develop and exist” because of what he claimed was a constant threat from modern Ukraine.
Immediately, airports and military headquarters were attacked, then tanks and troops rolled in from Russia, Russian-annexed Crimea and its ally Belarus. Now, warplanes have bombed major cities, and Russian forces have seized control of the key southern port city Kherson.
Russia refuses to use the terms war or even invasion; many of its leader’s justifications for it were false or irrational.
He claimed his goal was to protect people subjected to bullying and genocide and aim for the “demilitarisation and de-Nazification” of Ukraine. There has been no genocide in Ukraine: it is a vibrant democracy, led by a president who is Jewish.
“How could I be a Nazi?” said Volodymyr Zelensky, who likened Russia’s onslaught to Nazi Germany’s invasion in World War Two. Ukraine’s chief rabbi and the Auschwitz Memorial have also rejected Russia’s slur.