Russia launched its well-planned armed aggression against Ukraine on 20 February 2014 with the military operation of its Armed Forces on seizing a part of the Ukrainian territory — Crimean peninsula. This date is not even denied by the Russian Ministry of Defense, as it is indicated on the departmental medal “For the return of Crimea”. In fact, only the next day Viktor Yanukovych fled from Kyiv; and it was already 22 February 2014 that the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine adopted the Resolution “On the dissociation of the President of Ukraine from fulfillment of constitutional powers and appointment of early presidential elections in Ukraine”, used by Russia as a pretext for accusations of the alleged “unconstitutional coup in Ukraine”.
Illegal occupation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol was just the first Russian step aimed at undermining independence and sovereignty of Ukraine. The Kremlin has always been firmly convinced that Russia will never become a world leader without control over Ukraine, meanwhile a democratic and prosperous Ukraine is a threat to the current authoritarian rule in Russia. That is why the next step of the Russian aggression was an attempt to destabilize the situation in the eastern and southern regions of Ukraine in order to form a quasi-state “Novorossiya”. Russian president Vladimir Putin announced this plan at the “Dialogue with the Russians” TV program on the First Channel on 17 April 2014. We succeeded to disrupt the full implementation of his plans, but the Russian troops occupied parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine.
Armed aggression is just one element of the Russian hybrid warfare against Ukraine. Other elements include:
propaganda based on lies and falsifications;
trade and economic pressure;
terror and intimidation of Ukrainian citizens;
a strong denial of the very fact of war against Ukraine despite large scope of irrefutable evidence;
use of pro-Russian forces and satellite states in its own interests;
blaming the other side for its own crimes.
Courageous Ukrainian servicemen of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, National Guard and other military formations stopped the active phase of the Russian military invasion against Ukraine.
Joint political and diplomatic efforts of the international community constitute a crucial element in countering Russian aggression. On 27 March 2014 the UN General Assembly adopted the resolution 68/262 «Territorial Integrity of Ukraine» which confirmed the internationally recognized borders of Ukraine and the absence of any legal basis to change the status of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol. The same stance was confirmed by the UN General Assembly resolutions 71/205 of 19 December 2016, 72/190 of 19 December 2017, 73/263 of 22 December 2018, 74/168 of 18 December 2019, 75/192 of 16 December 2020 «Situation of human rights in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, Ukraine» as well as resolutions 73/194 of 17 December 2018, 74/17 of 9 December 2019, 75/29 of 7 December 2020 «Problem of the militarization of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, Ukraine, as well as parts of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov».
Numerous documents in support of Ukraine’s territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders were approved by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and other international organizations.
Political and economic sanctions are the most effective tool of pressure on the aggressor state. They significantly reduced the possibility of a large-scale invasion and forced Russia to sit at the negotiating table, in particular within the Trilateral Contact Group (Ukraine and Russia are parties to the conflict, the OSCE is a mediator) and Normandy Four (Ukraine and Russia are parties to the conflict, France and Germany are mediators).
Russian aggression against Ukraine has left about 13100-13300 people killed and up to 29500-33500 wounded (according to the UN OHCHR). This number includes, in particular, 298 passengers of MH17 flight, including 80 children, killed as a result of terrorist attack on 17 July 2014, when the Malaysian Airlines plane was shot down by the Russian servicemen from BUK missile system that had been transferred to the occupied territory of Donbas from the Russian Federation.
About 1,473 mln residents of Crimea and Donbas are now internally displaced persons after being compelled to leave their homes (as of summer 2021).
As of today Russia continues to illegally occupy Ukraine’s Autonomous Republic of Crimea (26 081 km²), the city of Sevastopol (864 km²), parts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions (16799 km²) — in total 43744 km² or 7,2% of the territory of Ukraine.
Economy of Donbas has been completely destroyed. Equipment of main industrial facilities of Donbas was dismantled and transported to the territory of Russia. Situation with flooded mines threatens environmental disaster. Russian authorities do not allow access of experts for assessing the threats and seeking ways to mend the situation.
A 409,7 km section of the Ukrainian-Russian state border in the east remains out of control by the Government of Ukraine.
Fact 6: Russia violates the Minsk agreements on a regular basis
The Minsk Agreements (Protocol of 5 September 2014, Memorandum of 19 September 2014 and Package of measures of 12 February 2015) are a basis for political resolution of the conflict in Donbas. They have been violated by the Russian Federation on a regular basis. Signing of the first documents in September 2014 followed direct incursion of the Russian regular troops in Donbas and intense hostilities near the city of Ilovaysk — the place of one of the most shameful crimes, committed by the Russian Army in Donbas. At least 366 Ukrainian servicemen were killed and 429 were wounded there while leaving the city in the so-called “green corridor” under the guarantees of commanders of Russian troops.
In violation of the Minsk Memorandum, Russian troops and Russia-backed illegal armed formations seized 8 pieces of land 1696 km² in area, which had to be on the Ukrainian government-controlled territory according to the line of contact, defined by the Memorandum.
Debaltseve is one of the most telling examples of how Russia violates the Minsk Agreements. Combined Russian-terrorist forces attacked and seized the city and the outskirts on 16–18 February 2015, immediately after the Minsk Package of measures, establishing the comprehensive ceasefire since 15 February, had been signed.
Fact 7: by launching military aggression against Ukraine, Russia violated fundamental norms and principles of international law, bilateral and multilateral agreements
Resorting to the military aggression against Ukraine, Russia violated fundamental norms and principles of international law, enshrined, in particular, in:
UN Charter (1945);
Helsinki Final Act (1975);
Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Co-operation among States in accordance with the UN Charter (1970);
UN GA Resolution 3314 “Definition of Aggression” (1974);
Declaration on the Inadmissibility of Intervention in the Domestic Affairs of States and the Protection of Their Independence and Sovereignty (1965);
Declaration on the Inadmissibility of Intervention and Interference in the Internal Affairs of States (1981);
Declaration on the Enhancement of the Effectiveness of the Principle of Refraining from the Threat or Use of Force in International Relations (1987).
Russia had also violated number of bilateral and multilateral agreements, namely:
Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances related to the Ukraine’s accession to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (1994);
Agreement on Friendship, Cooperation and Partnership between Ukraine and the Russian Federation (1997);
Agreement between Ukraine and the Russian Federation on the Ukrainian-Russian state border (2003);
Agreement between Ukraine and the Russian Federation on cooperation in use of the Azov Sea and Kerch Strait (2003);
Agreement between Ukraine and the Russian Federation on the status and conditions of Russian Black Sea Fleet in Ukraine (1999).
Russian occupation and further attempted annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol, as well as Russian illegal actions in Donbas, fall under the definition of aggression according to the points а), b), c), d), e) і g) Art.3 of the Annex to UN General Assembly Resolution “Definition of Aggression” (3314(XXIX)). The following actions are a serious crime against international peace, which entails international responsibility of the Russian Federation at the state level and international criminal responsibility of its leadership.
Fact 8: constant inflow of Russian troops and weaponry is the main obstacle to peace in Donbas
Russia continues to supply weapons, ammunition and fuel to the occupied territory through the uncontrolled section of the Ukrainian-Russian state border in order to strengthen the occupation forces, deployed in Donbas.
OSCE Special Monitoring Mission repeatedly informed about the presence in Donbas of weapons and military equipment that is adopted exclusively by the Russian army. SMM observers in Donbas spotted heavy flamethrower system “Buratino”, a radio-electronic suppression complex P-330 “Zhitel”, UAV “Orlan-10”, portable RLS “Grad-P” etc.
It is through the uncontrolled part of the Ukrainian-Russian border that Russian regular troops continue to arrive to Donbas from Russia. They constitute significant part of Russia-formed 1st and 2nd army corpses. The number of regular Russian troops in Donbas reaches 3,000 persons.
In violation of the Minsk agreements, Russia continue to impede access of the OSCE SMM to the uncontrolled border. Visits of observers are of sporadic and short-time nature that conducted in the presence of representatives of the occupation forces. Russia refuses to fulfil its obligation under paragraph 4 of the Minsk Protocol of 5 September 2014 on the establishment of security zones in border areas of Ukraine and Russia with ensuring permanent border monitoring and verification by the OSCE.
Fact 9: military aggression and hybrid warfare is Russia's standard practice
Russia’s aggressive policy targets not only Ukraine. Russia violated territorial integrity of Moldova and Georgia, announced its territorial claims and the willingness to “protect” Russian-speaking population in the Baltic States. Russia supports Eurosceptic and radical movements in Europe.
Russia`s brutal military campaign in Syria has resulted in increased wave of refugees to Europe. There is much evidence of close relations between Russian special services and terrorist organizations like ISIS and al-Qaeda.
Fact 10: Russian aggression can be stopped only by stepping up pressure on Kremlin
Political and economic sanctions were imposed on Russia in response to its aggression against Ukraine, therefore, stopping Russian military aggression against Ukraine and the reinstatement of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity may be the only reason for their cancellation. In other circumstances, Russia will continue its aggression, extending it to other states in the region.