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Tensions Heighten with Russia Over Ukrainian Invasion

Featured, National

Russian President Vladimir Putin. | Image by World Economic Forum on Flickr

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Russian President Vladimir Putin heightened international tensions by ordering Russian nuclear forces to be placed on high alert on February 27. Ukraine’s leader agreed to talks with Moscow as Putin’s troops and tanks advanced deeper into the country, and the United Nations Security Council has voted for an emergency meeting.

Putin said the move, which means the country’s nuclear weapons are in increased preparation to launch, was in reaction to NATO powers making “aggressive statements” in a meeting broadcast in state media on February 27.

Like the U.S. and NATO forces, Russia maintains thousands of nuclear warheads as a deterrent to attack.

The Associated Press reports that a senior U.S. defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Putin is “potentially putting in play forces that, if there’s a miscalculation, could make things much, much more dangerous.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s office announced that the two sides would meet on Sunday at an undisclosed location on the Belarusian border. The ultimate goals of the Kremlin in Ukraine – and what steps might be sufficient to satisfy Moscow – remain unknown.

On February 27, the United Nations Security Council voted to call an emergency session of the 193-member General Assembly to discuss Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. According to the Tampa Bay Times, eleven countries voted in favor of convening an emergency meeting, with Russia voting against, while China, India, and the United Arab Emirates abstained from the vote. 

In a vote earlier in the week, the United Nations Security Council demanded that Moscow end its attack on Ukraine and withdraw all troops immediately. However, Russia used its veto in that case, and the resolution was defeated.

When the Security Council cannot act due to a lack of unanimity among its five permanent members with veto power – the United States, Russia, China, the United Kingdom, and France – the General Assembly can convene emergency meetings.

After the invasion, scattered fighting was reported in Kyiv, battles erupted in Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, and Russian forces attacked strategic ports in the south.

According to internet monitors, Internet connectivity in Ukraine was disrupted by the Russian invasion, particularly in the southern and eastern parts of the country, where fighting has been the most intense.

On February 27, Mykhailo Fedorov, Ukrainians’ digital transformation minister, tweeted at tech billionaire Elon Musk, asking him to provide Ukraine with Starlink, Musk’s satellite-based internet system.

“While you try to colonize Mars – Russia [is trying] to occupy Ukraine! While your rockets successfully land from space – Russian rockets attack Ukrainian civil people!” Fedorov tweeted. “We ask you to provide Ukraine with Starlink stations and to address sane Russians to stand.”

According to Reuters, Musk, and SpaceX recently sent fifty Starlink terminals to the Pacific Ocean island nation of Tonga to provide free internet access to help reconnect remote villages following a massive volcano eruption and tsunami in January.

Hours later, Musk tweeted back at the minister.

“Starlink service is now active in Ukraine,” Musk said. “More terminals en route.”As Russia bombarded Kyiv and other cities with airstrikes, tens of thousands of Ukrainians fled to western countries searching for safety.

CRT News reports that tens of thousands of people left Ukraine last weekend. The United Nations (UN) said it fears up to five million people could be displaced due to the conflict between Ukraine and Russia.

According to the UN refugee agency, nearly 120,000 people have fled the country, almost half since the Russian invasion. The number rapidly grew as Ukrainians gathered their belongings and rushed to escape the Russian assault.

After Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy banned men of military age from leaving the country, most of those arriving in other countries were women, children, and the elderly.

Poland announced open borders to Ukrainian citizens. Poland’s government has said the country is expected to receive many refugees; all Ukrainians, including those who do not have valid documents to travel between the two countries, are welcome.

Border crossing remains open in both directions, CRT News reports. Many Ukrainian men who live in Poland or neighboring European Union countries have decided to go back to fight.

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