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Russia history: Was Ukraine once part of Russia? Why are Russia and Ukraine at war?

Ukraine: Satellite images show Russian tanks in Donbas

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The Russian President announced his plans early this morning, at approximately 5.45pm Moscow time, outlining military action designed to achieve “demilitarisation and de-Nazification of Ukraine”. He added that he intended to retake Ukraine “from those who took Ukraine hostage” while citing the UN charter’s Article 51 to justify the invasion. Mr Putin also claimed he wanted to strengthen Russia and Ukraine “from the inside as a single whole”.

Was Ukraine once part of Russia?

Ukraine and Russia, as neighbouring nations, have a long and varied shared history.

While very different places now, they share a birthplace with origins rooted thousands of years ago.

They started as the ancient Slavic, Baltic and Finnic alliance in eastern and Northern Europe named Kievan Rus’.

The region expanded between 800AD to 1240AD, with Kyiv serving as its capital for the vast majority of its time from 882.

The Kingdom of Ruthenia, which would later become modern Ukraine, was established just before Kievan Rus’ political fragmentation in 1199.

From 1648 to 1764, it existed as the Cossack Hetmanate before the Russian Empire incorporated it as a Tsardom in 1654.

A movement for self-determination blossomed after the Russian revolution in 1917, which was ultimately quashed by invading Bolsheviks in 1922.

Ukraine existed under Soviet control until 1990, when it adopted the Declaration of State Sovereignty of Ukraine.

But even after becoming a presidential democracy, the country remained in Russia’s shadow.

Russian-backed Presidents have ruled the country several times since it claimed independence, most notably Viktor Yanukovych.

Ukrainians ousted him during the 2014 Revolution of Dignity, and he now lives in exile in Russia.

Since then, Presidents Petro Poroshenko Volodymyr Zelensky have held power with a firmer stance against Russian aggression.

Mr Poroshenko led his country through the ignition of the Russo-Ukrainian War, an ongoing conflict between Ukraine and pro-Russian forces.

Mr Zelensky followed him in 2014, and as recent events have proven, continues to oppose Russia.

Mr Putin has used a manufactured history to cement his country’s claim on Ukraine that he used in his pretext for invasion.

Why are Russia and Ukraine at war?

In a lengthy national address on Monday, Mr Putin claimed Ukraine was “created by Russia”.

He has long debated the national identity of all former Soviet states, experts insist and has sought to bring them back into the Russian orbit.

That process started with recognising the separatist “Donetsk People’s Republic” and “Luhansk People’s Republic” earlier this week.

That served as a pretext for the latest invasion, with Russian officials stating troops had arrived for “peacekeeping” purposes.

Mr Putin has also blamed Ukraine’s potential future NATO membership for his movements.

The country is an aspirational member, and Russia claims for Ukraine to join the military alliance would threaten its borders.

NATO recently refused to rule out Ukraine’s eventual membership, prompting Mr Putin to build up a military presence.

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