The military and diplomatic tension between Russia and Ukraine intensified in the fall of 2021 when Ukrainian officials reported that the Russian government placed 100,000 troops near the border with Ukraine. By February 2022, the count was stated to have doubled. On February 21, 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Russia recognized the independence of the separatist Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics (DPR and LPR). Three days later, Putin launched a military operation in Ukraine, reportedly to protect residents of the Donbas region from the Ukrainian government.
In December 2021, the Russian administration released a list of demands toward Western countries, one of which was a legally binding guarantee that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) would not expand any further to the east. The U.S. and NATO urged the use of diplomatic means to solve the conflict. In February 2022, the Russian foreign ministry suggested the U.S. to pull troops from Eastern and Southeastern Europe and the Baltic states.
What has been the international reaction to the events?
Given the military imbalance between Russia and Ukraine, multiple Western countries offered Ukraine military support. Several NATO members sent additional troops to allies in Eastern Europe. The U.S., UK, and European Union (EU) imposed sanctions on Russia due to the entry of Russian troops on the territory of the DPR and LPR. The sanctions targeted the financial sector and individuals affiliated with the government. The EU also placed restrictions on trade with the DPR and LPR. Germany halted the certification of the gas pipeline Nord Stream 2.
Further sanctions were announced by Australia, Canada, and Japan. The EU also warned that sanctions could be placed on Belarus if it assisted Russia in the invasion.
Economic implications of the conflict
Putin's announcement of the military operation in Ukraine was followed by a drastic fall in the Russian ruble on February 24, 2022. The currency's value reached its minimum when one U.S. dollar cost 89.6 Russian rubles (a record low) and one euro cost 99,99 Russian rubles (the lowest value since 2014). The Central Bank of Russia began to intervene in foreign exchange markets to manage the currency. Furthermore, prices of oil benchmarks West Texas Intermediate (WTI) and Brent exceeded 100 U.S. dollars per barrel given the role of the Russian oil industry in global supplies. The fact that Ukraine transits Russian gas to Europe, together with the freeze of Nord Stream 2, led Dutch TTF gas futures to grow up to 125 euros per megawatt-hour. Russian gas supplies via the Ukraine transit route alone accounted for 11 percent of the EU's net extra-EU gas imports in the third quarter of 2021.
Russo-Ukrainian relations after 2014
The events of 2021 and 2022 are a part of a larger conflict between the two neighboring states that takes its roots in 2013. After the Euromaidan protests in Ukraine in November 2013, Russia annexed Crimea and Sevastopol from Ukraine, justifying its move with the results of a referendum, which was not recognized as lawful by most countries worldwide. Furthermore, from 2014 onwards, military actions have been taking place between the DPR and LPR, supported by Russia, and the Ukrainian government. The Minsk Agreement (Minsk II), which includes a set of measures to achieve a ceasefire in East Ukraine, was signed by representatives of Russia, Ukraine, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the DPR, and the LPR in 2015, but it had not been implemented to date.
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