Russian forces fired rockets at several Ukrainian cities on Thursday and landed troops on the southern coast, right after Russian President Vladimir Putin authorized what he called a special military operation in eastern Ukraine.
Here’s a timeline of key events in Ukraine’s political history since it gained independence from Moscow in 1991.
1991: Leonid Kravchuk, leader of the Soviet Republic of Ukraine, declares independence from Moscow. In a referendum and presidential elections, Ukrainians approve independence and elect the president of Kravchuk.
1994: Leonid Kuchma defeats Kravchuk in a presidential election deemed free and fair by observers.
1999: Kuchma is re-elected in a vote full of irregularities.
2004: Pro-Russian candidate Viktor Yanukovych is declared president, but allegations of vote fraud spark protests in what comes to be known as the Orange Revolution, forcing the vote to be held again. A pro-Western ex-prime minister, Viktor Yushchenko, is elected president.
2005: Yushchenko takes power with promises to steer Ukraine out of the Kremlin’s orbit towards NATO and the EU. He appoints former boss of energy company Yulia Tymoshenko as prime minister, but she is fired after fighting in the pro-Western camp.
2008: NATO promises Ukraine that it will one day join the alliance.
2010: Yanukovych defeats Tymoshenko in presidential election. Russia and Ukraine sign a gas price agreement in exchange for an extension of the lease for the Russian navy in a Ukrainian Black Sea port.
2013: Yanukovych’s government suspends trade and association talks with the EU in November and opts to revive economic ties with Moscow, leading to months of mass demonstrations in Kiev.
2014: The protests, largely centered on Maidan Square in Kiev, turn violent. Dozens of protesters are killed.
February 2014: Parliament votes to remove Yanukovych, who flees. Within days, gunmen capture parliament in the Ukrainian region of Crimea and raise the Russian flag. Moscow annexes the area after a referendum on March 16 shows overwhelming support in Crimea for joining the Russian Federation
April 2014: Pro-Russian separatists in the eastern region of Donbass declare independence. Fighting breaks out, which have continued sporadically into 2022, despite frequent ceasefires.
May 2014: Businessman Petro Poroshenko wins presidential election with a pro-Western agenda.
July: 2014: A missile downs passenger plane MH17 en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, killing all 298 people on board. Detectives trace the used weapon back to Russia, which denies involvement.
2017: An association agreement between Ukraine and the EU opens up markets for free trade in goods and services, and visa-free travel to the EU for Ukrainians.
2019: A new Ukrainian Orthodox church gains formal recognition, angering the Kremlin
Former comic book actor Volodymyr Zelenskiy defeats Poroshenko in April’s presidential election on promises to tackle corruption and end the war in eastern Ukraine. His Servant of the People’s party will win parliamentary elections in July.
US President Donald Trump asks Zelenskiy in July to investigate Joe Biden, his US presidential race rival, and Biden’s son Hunter over possible business dealings in Ukraine. The call leads to a failed attempt to impeach Trump.
March 2020: Ukraine goes into lockdown for the first time to contain COVID-19.
June 2020: The IMF approves a $5 billion lifeline to help Ukraine avoid default amid a pandemic-induced recession.
January 2021: Zelenskiy calls on Biden, now US president, to admit Ukraine to NATO.
February 2021: Zelenskiy’s government imposes sanctions on Viktor Medvedchuk, an opposition leader and the Kremlin’s most prominent ally in Ukraine.
Spring 2021: Russia gathers troops near Ukraine’s borders in what it says are training exercises.
October 2021: Ukraine uses a Turkish Bayraktar TB2 drone in eastern Ukraine for the first time, angering Russia.
Fall 2021: Russia begins to rally troops again near Ukraine.
December 7, 2021: Biden warns Russia of sweeping Western economic sanctions if it invades Ukraine.
December 17: Russia proposes detailed security requirements, including a legally binding guarantee that NATO will abandon all military activity in Eastern Europe and Ukraine.
January 14: A cyber attack warning Ukrainians to “be afraid and expect the worst” hits Ukrainian government websites.
January 17: Russian troops arrive in Belarus, in northern Ukraine, for joint exercises.
January 24: NATO puts troops on standby and reinforces Eastern Europe with more ships and fighter jets.
January 26: Washington presents a written response to Russia’s security demands, reiterates its commitment to NATO’s “open door” policy, while offering “pragmatic” discussions on Moscow’s concerns.
January 28: President Vladimir Putin says Russia’s key security requirements have not been met.
February 2: The United States says it will send an additional 3,000 troops to Poland and Romania to protect NATO allies in Eastern Europe from any consequences of the crisis.
February 4: Putin wins Chinese support at the Beijing Winter Olympics for his demand that Ukraine should not be allowed to join NATO.
February 7: French President Emmanuel Macron sees some hope for a diplomatic solution to the crisis after meeting Putin in the Kremlin. Macron then visits Kiev and praises the “sang-froid” of Zelenskiy and the Ukrainian people.
February 9: Biden says “it could get crazy fast” as the US State Department advises Americans in Ukraine to leave immediately. Other countries are also urging their nationals to leave.
February 14: Zelenskiy urges Ukrainians to wave flags and sing the national anthem in unison on February 16, a date some Western media outlets say could invade Russia.
February 15: Russia says some of its troops are returning to base after exercises near Ukraine, mocking Western warnings of impending invasion. Russian parliament asks Putin to recognize two Russian-backed breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine as independent.
February 18: U.S. Ambassador to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Michael Carpenter says Russia may have amassed between 169,000 and 190,000 personnel in and near Ukraine.
February 19: Russia’s strategic nuclear forces conduct exercises overseen by Putin.
February 21: Macron says Biden and Putin have agreed in principle to a summit on Ukraine.
In a televised speech, Putin says Ukraine is an integral part of Russian history, has never had a history of real sovereignty, is controlled by foreign powers and has a puppet regime. Putin signs agreements to recognize breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine as independent and to order Russian troops there.
February 22: US, UK and their allies issue sanctions against Russian MPs, banks and other assets. Germany stops final certification of Nord Stream 2 pipeline pending approval.
Putin in a televised speech demands that Ukraine demilitarize, says the Minsk peace agreement on breakaway republics no longer exists, and blames Kiev for destroying the deal.
February 23: Russian-backed separatist leaders ask Russia for help in repelling aggression from the Ukrainian military.
February 24: Russian President Putin authorizes “special military operations” in eastern Ukraine and asks Ukrainian troops to lay down their weapons in a televised speech. Russian forces begin missile and artillery strikes on Ukrainian troops and air bases, attacking areas in major cities.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by DailyExpertNews staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.)