Keeping up with the constant developments can be confusing and overwhelming.
As the war in Ukraine continues, here is a guide to some of the terms you may have heard or seen: what they mean and why they mean.
Separatist territories have been the scene of a low-intensity war since 2014, when Russian-backed rebels seized government buildings across the region. The eight-year conflict has resulted in the deaths of over 14,000 people.
Kyiv and the West insist that the self-proclaimed republics are part of Ukraine, although the Ukrainian government claims that both regions are in fact occupied by Russia and refuses direct talks with either the DPR or the LPR.
On February 21, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed decrees recognizing the independence of the separatist territories and ordered his troops to enter the region as part of what the Kremlin called a “peace” operation.
The move was widely viewed by the West as opening a major military operation against Ukraine. Three days later, Russian troops attacked the country.
Russia relies heavily on shelling key Ukrainian cities and towns in an attempt to take control of locations in that country.
Fire refers to artillery fire from large guns and was used against administrative and residential buildings. Ukrainian emergency services reported dozens of deaths as a result of the Russian shelling.
United Nations officials say more than 500 civilians died from the invasion, from all causes, including air strikes and shelling – though they warn the real figure could be much higher.
The President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, accused the Russian forces of indiscriminate fire from the beginning of the invasion. In the last message on his Facebook page On Friday, he said that Russian troops “are shooting at our people, our children, residential areas, churches, schools, destroying everything that provides a normal life, human life.”
Humanitarian corridors are demilitarized pathways that lead out to or into combat zones during war, which enable people to escape conflict or to bring in aid. They are aimed at reducing the number of civilian casualties.
Ukraine called on world leaders to put pressure on Putin to open such corridors and “prevent a large-scale humanitarian disaster” in Ukrainian cities.
But the ‘humanitarian corridors’ discussed by Russian officials in the conflict in Ukraine largely fall short of this description. Ukrainian Officials dismissed one unilateral proposal by the Kremlin of evacuation corridors for civilians as an unacceptable non-start – as most routes lead to Russia or its faithfully allied Belarus and would require traveling through active combat zones.
In recent days, hopes for the opening of safe evacuation corridors for civilians from many cities have been dispelled many times, and Ukraine has accused Russia of attacking escape routes.
“Evacuation through humanitarian corridors is only possible if the ceasefire regime is fully upheld. The Ukrainian side is ready for this, the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced on Monday.
The organization of the North Atlantic Treaty is a defense alliance of 30 countries of North America and Europe. According to NATO, its aim “is to guarantee freedom and security to its members by political and military means.”
The group was founded in 1949 with the escalation of the Cold War. Its original purpose was to protect the West from the threat posed by the Soviet Union.
Since the end of the Cold War, many former Soviet Union countries have joined NATO, much to Putin’s frustration, who sees it as a threat. Ukraine is not a NATO member, but has long been hoping to join the alliance – something Russia strongly opposes.
The most famous aspect of the NATO alliance is Art. 5 of his treaty, which states that “an attack on one ally is considered an attack on all allies.”
As Ukraine is not part of NATO, the alliance is not forced to protect the country in the same way as if a NATO member had been attacked; in fact, the alliance countries said they had no intention of sending their troops to Ukraine. However, many of Ukraine’s neighbors are members, and if the Russian attack spreads to one of these countries, Article 5 could trigger direct involvement from the US and other NATO members.
The Alliance can take collective defense measures without invoking Article 5. This is what it has done in recent weeks, increasing its land, sea and air forces on its eastern flank; Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas also asked for a more permanent NATO deployment in the Baltic states.
A no-fly zone is an area where some planes are not allowed to fly for a number of reasons. In the context of this invasion, it would likely mark a zone where Russian planes are not allowed to fly to prevent them from raiding Ukraine.
Zelenskiy called on NATO to establish a no-fly zone, but NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said it was not an option considered by the alliance.
If it imposed a no-fly zone on Ukraine, NATO would probably have to step in to enforce it, risking an escalation of the conflict.
NATO has previously imposed no-fly zones in non-member countries, including Bosnia and Libya, but to do so is always a controversial move as it means engaging in conflict without the full involvement of ground forces. Putin said that any countries introducing a no-fly zone would be considered participants in the armed conflict. If NATO did this in Ukraine, it could lead Russia to retaliate against NATO member states.
Javelins and Stings
The United States and other Western countries are sending key military equipment to Ukraine to help fight Russia. These include the portable anti-aircraft missiles known as Stingers, which are fired by soldiers on the ground to knock down aircraft flying overhead. They allow foot soldiers to participate in the battle for the Ukrainian sky.
Portable anti-tank weapons, including American-made Javelin missiles, are also sent to Ukrainian forces. Also launched by ground troops, they attack heavy military vehicles, including tanks, and slow down and disrupt Russian military convoys as they move in key locations.
The US and NATO have sent 17,000 anti-tank and 2,000 Stinger anti-aircraft missiles to Ukraine so far, a senior US official on CNN said on Monday. There are different generations of Stingers that are manufactured in the US, and US officials were aware that they were not delivering the latest model to Ukrainians in case they fell into the hands of Russia, which could steal US technology.
Cluster and “vacuum” bombs
NATO’s Stoltenberg accused Russia of using cluster bombs in attacks on Ukrainian cities. These are bombs that not only set off the initial explosion upon impact, but also contain many smaller bombs that spread over a large area. They are largely condemned by the international community due to the risk of civilian casualties when used in populated areas.
US President Joe Biden’s envoy at the United Nations separately accused Russia of preparing to use prohibited weapons, including “cluster munitions and vacuum bombs”, in Ukraine.
Vacuum bombs, or thermobaric weapons, suck oxygen from the surrounding air, generating a powerful explosion and a large pressure wave that can have enormous destructive effects.
According to Human Rights Watch, Russia has previously used thermobaric weapons in Chechnya with dire consequences.
The CNN team spotted a Russian thermobaric rocket launcher near the Ukrainian border in late February.
The Geneva Convention, signed in 1949 after World War II, sets global standards that must be respected in hostilities.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, The Netherlands can prosecute serious breaches of these standards; contains detailed definitions of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and crimes of aggression.
The ICC has already launched an active investigation into possible war crimes committed by Russia in Ukraine, including against civilians, in violation of the Geneva Convention and in certain groups of people.
The U.S. Embassy in Kiev said Friday that Russia has committed a war crime by attacking Zaporizhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine – the largest in Europe. “The attack on the nuclear power plant is a war crime,” the embassy said on its official Twitter channel. “Putin’s firing of the largest nuclear power plant in Europe takes his reign of terror one step further.”
Sanctions are economic penalties imposed by one country on another or on specific companies or individuals. Western countries have imposed a series of severe sanctions on Russia that have stunned its economy since Moscow invaded Ukraine.
The measures imposed on the country included cutting off the two largest Russian banks, Sberbank and VTB, from US dollar trading and removing seven institutions from SWIFT, a global communication service that connects financial institutions and facilitates quick and safe payments – essentially isolating Russian banks. from the Western financial system. As a result, the value of the Russian currency, the ruble and several Russian companies trading in foreign currencies fell sharply.
Key persons associated with the Kremlin were also targeted, and Western countries seized their property or assets.
Of all the Western sanctions imposed on Moscow so far, perhaps the most damaging is the removal of some Russian banks from SWIFT.
The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication was founded in 1973, replacing the telex, and is now used by over 11,000 financial institutions to send secure messages and payment orders.
SWIFT does not transfer money around the world. It allows banks to send each other instructions to transfer funds abroad. As there is no globally accepted alternative, it is essential for global finance.
Disconnecting the entire country from SWIFT is seen as a nuclear economic sanction option.
CNN’s Ivana Kottasova, Luke McGee, Paul LeBlanc, Zachary B. Wolf and Charles Riley contributed to this article.