How is Putin justifying Russia’s invasion of Ukraine? – explainer

Jerusalem Post

Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, seemingly for no reason. A close look at Putin’s speeches at its beginning shows the ‘official’ reasons why he embarked on such a dangerous experiment.

On February 24, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced he was launching a “special military operation” in Ukraine after building up his forces on the border for several months. Although the Kremlin flatly denied that it was intending to invade Ukraine, it ended up doing so on the very day that US intelligence predicted it would. Across the spectrum, many did not believe Russia would actually invade Ukraine and interpreted the buildup of forces as merely a power play. It seemed at the time that Putin only had everything to lose and nothing to gain from an invasion. Invasions are costly, financially and in casualties, and there was the risk of international push-back.

What did Putin stand to gain by launching a major offensive?

A close look at two speeches Putin gave, on February 21 and 24, provides a somewhat coherent picture of his motives and goals. The first speech culminated in Putin recognizing two breakaway regions of Donetsk and Luhansk in Ukraine as independent republics. The second was the launching of the “special operation.” From the West’s point of view, Putin’s claims are, at best, far-fetched and many of them are simply false. Paying attention to his motives, however, provides insight into his worldview and may explain the extent that he will be willing to go in order to bring Ukraine to its knees. His arguments can be classified into three main groups that build on each other: The Donbass argument, the legal argument and the “de-Nazification” argument.

The Donbas argument

The central pretext for Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is the ongoing battle in Ukraine’s southeastern Donbas region. The “Euromaidan” protests in Kyiv broke out in the winter of 2013-2014, sparked by the Ukrainian government’s sudden decision not to sign the European Union-Ukraine Association Agreement. The protests led to the “Revolution of Dignity” and to the ouster of pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych. As an immediate result, Putin-led Russia took control of the Crimean Peninsula and held a referendum in which he claimed that 97% voted in favor of separation from Ukraine. Russia, on March 17, 2014, officially recognized Crimean independence. On March 27, the UN General assembly voted overwhelmingly that the referendum was invalid (UN resolution 68/282).

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