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On 24 February 2022 Russia launched military action in Ukraine, with forces crossing into the country from Belarus in the north, Russia in the east and Crimea in the south.

President Putin said it was a “special military operation” intended to protect the people of the Donbas and to “demilitarise and denazify Ukraine”. He denied that Russia planned to occupy Ukrainian territory or to “impose anything on anyone by force”.

Over the last two years, Russian forces have, however, been conducting a full-scale assault on the country. In early October 2022 Russia signed annexation treaties recognising Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia as part of the Russian Federation, even though those regions are not totally under Russian control.

The Ukrainian government has vowed to retake all its sovereign territory, including Crimea which was annexed by Russia in 2014. The Kremlin has said that the annexed regions will be with Russia forever.

Analysts have questioned whether the conflict is at a “stalemate” after Ukraine’s much vaunted counteroffensive in 2023 failed to achieve its objectives. Concerns have also been expressed over the future of military assistance to Ukraine, in particular from the United States. However, with both sides continuing to call for a decisive victory, there appears little current appetite for compromise or peace. 


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