Timeline of Events in the Build-up to the Russo-Ukrianian War
On February 24, 2022, President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. In response to this "brutal assault”, the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Japan, and Taiwan all leveled a heavy set of economic sanctions against Russia. With war looming, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Germany all announced that they were preparing for an influx of refugees from Ukraine.
How did we get here? What are some of the key reasons and events that led to this disaster that promises to be one of the largest on the European continent since WWII? Here, I will list out some of the most pivotal events that have happened between Ukraine, the West, and Russia in the lead-up to the Russo-Ukranian War.
The Soviet Republic of Ukraine declares independence under the leadership of Leonid Kravchuk.
A referendum on the Act of Declaration of Independence is held in Ukraine. With 84% turnout, 92.3% of citizens vote in favor of independence.
The United States, Russia, and Ukraine sign the Trilateral Statement. Provided that the United States and Russia provide economic assistance and security assurances, Ukraine agrees to transfer its stockpile of nuclear warheads to Russia.
The United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus sign the Budapest Memorandum. The US, UK, and Russia agree to security assurances against the threat of force on Ukraine’s territory or political independence. All signatories agreed to respect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine.
After an election with alleged vote-rigging, Pro-Russian candidate Viktor Yanukovych is declared the President of Ukraine. This triggers mass protests that are later called the Orange Revolution.
After a re-run of the presidential election, Pro-Western Viktor Yushchenko is elected President.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) promises Ukraine it will one day be able to join the alliance.
Formed initially to combat aggression from the Soviet Union, NATO is an intergovernmental military alliance between 28 European countries and the United States and Canada. Article 5 of the North Atlantic treaty states that “an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all.”
In a joint statement by Russia and the United States, both reaffirm the security guarantees given to Ukraine in the Budapest Memorandum (see 1994).
Mass protests ignite in Ukraine in response to the Ukrainian government. suspending the signing of the European Union-Ukraine Association Agreement. This agreement would have set Ukraine on a path for its economic and legal policies to mirror those of the European Union/EU. Pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych instead decides to opt for closer ties to Russia. The resulting protests come to be known as Euromaidan or the Revolution of Dignity.
To quell the Euromaidan protests, the Ukrainian government and the opposition sign the “Agreement on settlement of the political crisis in Ukraine”. The Ukrainian parliament votes to remove Yanukovych from office.
Ukrainian President Yanukovych flees Ukraine.
With reports of the Russian military (many people reporting sights of “little green men”) in the Crimean peninsula of Ukraine, Crimea holds a referendum on its status. Reportedly, 95.5% of people vote to join the Russian federation.
Russia annexes Crimea after Crimean and Russian officials sign the Treaty of Accession of the Republic of Crimea to Russia.
The political provisions of the European Union-Ukraine Association Agreement are put into place in Ukraine. This agreement was previously suspended by former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.
Pro-Russian separatists in the eastern region of Donbas regions of Donetsk and Luhansk declare independence. Fighting breaks out between these regions and the Ukrainian government. Fighting has continued in eastern Ukraine to the present despite later attempts at brokering peace agreements.
Pro-Western President Petro Poroshenko is elected president of Ukraine.
Ukraine and the Russian-backed separatists in Donbas agree to a 12-point ceasefire deal in the Belarusian capital of Minsk in September 2014. Known as the Minsk-1 agreement, these quickly break down.
Representatives of Russia, Ukraine, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and the leaders of the break-away Donbas regions sign another 13-point agreement. These agreements known as the Minsk 2 agreements include:
An immediate and comprehensive ceasefire
Withdrawal of all heavy weapons by both sides
Monitoring and verification by the OSCE
All provisions of the European Union-Ukraine Association Agreement formally come into force.
Ex-comedian Volodymyr Zelenksy is elected president of Ukraine promising to end the war in eastern Ukraine and to fight corruption.
Ukrainian President Zelenskiy urges US President Joe Biden to let Ukraine join NATO.
Russia masses 100,000 to 120,000 troops on Ukraine’s border.
Russian President Vladimir Putin publishes the essay “On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians, arguing that Ukrainians and Russians are actually “one people” and that “Kyiv [Ukraine] simply does not need Donbas" (the eastern region of Ukraine that has attempted to secede).
Russia and Belarus conduct a 200,000 troop training exercise.
A new build-up of Russian troops begins with 80,00-90,000 soldiers encamping on the Ukrainian border.
US CIA Director Willam Burns speaks to President Vladimir Putin about the build-up of Russian Troops on Ukraine’s border.
US Intelligence reports that Russia is planning a multi-front attack against Ukraine in early 2022.
US President Joe Biden and Russian President Putin hold a 2-hour virtual summit about Ukraine. US President Biden warns of economic sanctions against Russia if Russia invades Ukraine.
Russia issues a list of demands over Ukraine including:
1. A ban on Ukraine entering NATO and all further expansion of the alliance.
2. Removal and limited deployment of NATO weapons and troops to Eastern Europe.
A cyber attack hits many Ukrainian government websites with the following warning presented: "All information about you has become public, be afraid and expect the worst. This is for your past, present and future."
30,000 Russian Troops begin to gather in Belarus to conduct military exercises scheduled for mid-February.
8,500 US troops are put on heightened alert due to the escalation in Ukrainian-Russian tensions.
NATO Allies put forces on standby and send additional ships and troops to eastern Europe as a deterrence to the Russian military build-up. The US military sends 300 Javelin anti-tank missiles, launchers, and other military equipment to Ukraine.
China and Russia issue a joint statement to “oppose further enlargement of NATO.”
French President Emmanuel Macron, after a flurry of diplomacy, announces he has secured a promise from Russian President Putin that Russia “would not be the cause of an escalation” of the crisis on the border with Ukraine. The Kremlin promptly denies that Russia has made any such commitment.
US President Biden announces with German Chancellor Olaf Schulz that the natural gas pipeline Nord Stream 2 (a pipeline directly from Russia to Germany) will be canceled if Russia invades Ukraine.
Russia holds nuclear drills amid escalating tensions over Ukraine.
At the Munich Security Conference, Ukrainian President Zelenkey gives an impassioned speech arguing that Western states should not have a policy of “appeasement" towards Moscow.
French President Emmanuel Macron invites US President Biden and Russian President Putin to a summit to resolve the mounting crisis.
In a televised event, Putin announces recognition of the Donbas regions of Donetsk and Luhansk as independent, widely believed to be a pretext for war. He argues in the speech that Ukraine has never had a history of statehood and is actually controlled by foreign powers.
Germany cancels the Nord Stream 2 Pipeline. US, UK begin enacting economic sanctions against Russia.
Russian separatists in the Donbas region ask Russia for military help in fighting Ukraine.
EU presents the first wave of sanctions against Russia.
Russian President Putin orders "special military operations" in eastern Ukraine to "denazify" and "demilitarize" the country.