As the threat of war looms, western nations for weeks have been occupied trying to ease growing tensions between Russia and Ukraine.
Canada, the United States and European allies have been scrambling to support Ukraine in the event of an armed conflict, while threatening Russia with sanctions if it moves into the former Soviet state.
The ongoing crisis is being watched around the world. While Ukrainian leaders are urging for calm in their nation, they’re preparing for the worst.
Here’s how we got here, and what’s happening right now.
Why are there tensions between Russia and Ukraine?
Since it won independence after the Soviet Union broke up in 1991, Ukraine has shed its Russian imperial legacy and forged close ties with the West.
In 2014, protests broke out in Ukraine when then-Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who favoured Russia, rejected an association agreement with the European Union in favour of closer ties with Moscow.
Russia responded by annexing Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and throwing its weight behind a separatist insurgency that broke out in Ukraine’s east. More than 14,000 people have died since the conflict began.
Last year, a spike in cease-fire violations in eastern Ukraine and Russian troops concentrated near Ukraine fuelled fears of war, but tensions eased when Moscow pulled back the bulk of its forces after maneuvers in April.
However, in recent weeks Moscow has deployed about 100,000 troops across Ukraine’s borders, along with tanks and other heavy artillery, sparking new fears of an invasion. Russia has denied it intends to launch an invasion, but western nations are unconvinced.
Russian President Vladimir Putin claims the increased military presence along the Russia-Ukraine border is in response to provocations from the West.
U.S. President Joe Biden has said he expects Putin to invade Ukraine, but Moscow would pay a “dear price” in lives lost and possible cutoff from the global banking system if it does.
How is Canada involved?
Meanwhile, since the fall of the Crimean Peninsula in 2014, Canada has supported Ukraine with more than $890 million for support including development, humanitarian and financial assistance.
For example, Ottawa has given more than $245 million to Ukraine in developmental assistance to bolster reform in its electoral and judicial systems, among other areas. Also, the Canadian government has given more than $37 million in humanitarian funding to help with safe drinking water and access to basic health services.
Recently, Ottawa announced it will loan up to $120 million to Ukraine to help bolster its economy during the crisis, which has been crushed by the ongoing crisis. In total, Canada has invested more than $1 billion in Ukraine.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said Moscow is trying to destabilize Ukraine.
“We are looking to support the people of Ukraine in the challenges they’re facing against an aggressive Russia that has amassed troops at the borders, that is interfering in Ukrainian political affairs, that is using cyber-attacks and propaganda to destabilize Ukraine,” Trudeau said last Friday.
“Canada has been and will continue to be a friend and ally of Ukraine, and we will continue to be there to support them and to ensure that Ukrainian people get to determine their futures — not Vladimir Putin.”
In addition to financial support, for years Canada has sent rotations of 200 Canadian Armed Forces members to help train Ukrainian security forces under Operation UNIFIER.
While Canada mulls over further support, including weapons shipments, the federal government is moving to protect Canadian citizens in the region.
On Tuesday, Ottawa ordered the families of diplomats stationed at the embassy in Ukraine to leave the country. Furthermore, Canadians in Ukraine should consider whether their presence in the country is essential, the government said.
Ottawa has sent a small group of special forces operators to the region to help advise the government in Kyiv and help plan an evacuation of Canadian diplomatic staff in the event of an invasion.
While Canada considers further options, the federal government is joining its NATO allies in warning Russia that it will impose further sanctions on Moscow if it takes any military action to compromise Ukrainian sovereignty.
Back home, however, Global Affairs Canada is scrambling to recover after a multi-day network disruption that security and government sources have described to Global News as a “cyberattack.”
Sources have told Global News the government is concerned the attack was conducted by Russia or Russian-backed hackers.
What is the current status of the crisis?
While western nations urge for more diplomacy to de-escalate, they’re planning for worst-case scenarios.
Russia dismisses western nations’ claims that it’s planning an invasion. Instead, it says they are a cover for NATO’s own planned provocations.
In the latest standoff, Russia has demanded guarantees from the West that NATO would never allow Ukraine to join, and that the alliance would stop other actions, such as stationing troops in former Soviet bloc countries.
Some of these demands, such as a pledge to permanently bar Ukraine, are non-starters for NATO. However, Washington is open to discussing other ideas about arms control, missile deployments and confidence-building measures, Reuters reports.
On Monday, NATO said it is putting extra forces on standby and sending more ships and fighter jets to Eastern Europe to beef up its “deterrence” presence in the Baltic Sea area.
Last Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met in Geneva, Switzerland at what the American diplomat said was a “critical moment.”
Blinken said no major breakthroughs were made, but both sides were on a “clearer path to understanding each other’s positions.”
Russia is now awaiting a written U.S. response to its proposals made at the Friday meeting.
Diplomatic talks will resume on Wednesday when political advisers from Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany will meet in Paris for talks on resolving the conflict, Reuters reports.
In Ukraine, officials are urging calm.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said late Monday the situation is “under control” and that there is “no reason to panic.”
Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said that, as of Monday, that Russia’s armed forces haven’t formed what he called battle groups, “which would have indicated that tomorrow they would launch an offensive.”
“There are risky scenarios. They’re possible and probable in the future,” Reznikov told Ukraine’s ICTV channel on Monday. “But as of today … such a threat doesn’t exist.”
For the latest on the Ukraine-Russia conflict, visit globalnews.ca/tag/ukraine
— with files from The Associated Press