The Russian invasion of Ukraine, which began on Feb. 24, now enters its second month, defying the expectations of both Western and Russian experts. As the war develops day by day, here is a summary of key events that occurred over the past week.
“From this day [March 24] and after that, we are standing. Comes from your offices, your homes, your schools, to support Ukraine and to support freedom. Go to your squares, your streets, make yourselves seen and heard. Say that people matter. Peace matters. Ukraine matters,” Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a speech on March 24.
On that same day, the White House released a briefing detailing a $1 billion humanitarian assistance package for Ukraine following the $800 million funding package for the shipment of equipment, including drones, to Ukraine earlier in March.
As fighting continues around the country, Ukrainian sources have reported a counteroffensive against Russian troops near the capital of Kyiv on March 26.
“Russian forces were still just four miles away, but the commander asked that the village names not be published to safeguard his positions. The villages on the front line were mostly deserted, with just a few men and women guarding houses and looking after their livestock. The first line of houses facing the road where the tank battle happened were badly damaged from artillery or tank shells,” the New York Times reads.
President Biden gave a speech in Warsaw, promising further support for Ukraine and decrying Russian president Vladimir Putin, according to CNN.
“‘[Putin is] a criminal who wants to portray NATO enlargement as an imperial project aimed at destabilizing Russia. Nothing is further from the truth. NATO is a defensive alliance. It has never sought the demise of Russia,’” Biden said to the crowd.
Professor Frank Costigliola, a board of trustees distinguished professor of history at the University of Connecticut specializing in U.S. foreign relations, further explained NATO expansion eastward in an interview with The Daily Campus.
“When East and West Germany reunified in 1990, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev told of a verbal agreement with the U.S. secretary of state, saying that a unified Germany would join NATO, but the alliance would not expand any further. Since then we saw Poland, Romania, Albania, Lithuania and other countries join NATO. The agreement was never formalized, only a mutual understanding,” Costigliola said.
Professor Costigliola emphasized that the growth of NATO after 1991 in no way justified Russian invasion.
“Great powers want to have friendly neighbors. That’s how history has always been. Look at Cuba, they were allied with the Soviets in the 1960s and we still have a trade embargo with them. But that doesn’t excuse the atrocities happening in Ukraine,” Costigliola said.
Perhaps the most notable quote from President Biden’s speech toward Putin was: “For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power.”
“A White House official said Biden meant that ‘Putin cannot be allowed to exercise power over his neighbors or the region’ and said Biden wasn’t referring to regime change. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was even more categorical during a trip to Jerusalem on Sunday,” CNN said.
Ukrainian forces continued a series of counterattacks against Russian troops around Kharkov, the second largest city in Ukraine, according to Interfax-Ukraine and Ukrainian military officials.
“To date, we can confidently say that Mala Rohan is completely under the control of our troops and ‘cleansed’ from the invaders. The liquidation of the remnants of Russian troops in Vilkhivka continues. We are pushing the invaders to the borders with the Russian Federation,” wrote Head of Kharkiv Regional Military Administration Oleh Synehubov on his Telegram channel, according to Interfax-Ukraine.
Following reports of combat in the area on March 26, Pentagon officials stated Ukrainian troops liberated the town of Trostianets near Sumy, according to ABC News.
“Last Friday, the [Pentagon] official said Russian troops north of Kyiv had moved into defensive positions around the city and were putting a priority on operations in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine,” ABC said.
Professor Costigliola provided some explanation for these counterattacks and Ukraine’s surprising resistance against the Russian invasion.
“People saw this in Afghanistan—nationalism is a surprisingly powerful factor most countries tend to ignore. When U.S. troops were in Afghanistan, the Taliban could fight us for so long because we were strangers in their homeland, and they claimed to fight to protect Afghanistan from us, the invaders. The Ukrainians feel the same way” said Costigliola.
After weeks of ceasefire talks ending with no result, NPR reported that Ukrainian and Russian representatives met in Istanbul, Turkey on Wednesday.
“Ukraine delivered a proposal for accepting a neutral and nonnuclear status, including a plan to host no foreign military bases,” NPR said.