Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 Russia has intervened militarily in several conflicts, all except for Syria on the territory of countries that were part of the former USSR, as is the case with the offensive it launched during the early hours of last night over Ukraine.
After the disintegration of the USSR and the declaration of Georgia as an independent republic, two regions located in its territory, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, refused to join it and proclaimed their autonomy, which was not accepted by Georgia.
The growing tension led to two armed conflicts: the one in South Ossetia between 1990 and 1991 resulted in 2,000 deaths, and the one in Abkhazia between 1992 and 1993 cost more than 10,000 lives and the exodus of 300,000 Georgians living in the region. In both cases, the separatists were supported by Russia.
In August 2008 Georgian troops attacked Tskhinval, the capital of South Ossetia, and other localities, which triggered the intervention of Russian military forces in support of the South Ossetian militias and forced the Georgians to withdraw. The conflict lasted five days and caused more than 600 deaths. Two weeks later, Russia recognized the independence of the two territories.
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Russia has intervened in the two bloody secessionist wars that this Russian Caucasus republic has suffered, leaving tens of thousands dead.
The hostilities began in 1994 when Moscow stormed into this territory that had proclaimed its independence in 1991, barely a month before the last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, signed the demise of the USSR.
The intervention ended in 1996 with the withdrawal of the Russian Army, the disarmament of the guerrilla, and the possibility of initiating a process of self-determination, which was frustrated in 1999 with the arrival of Vladimir Putin to power and a chain of attacks in Russia and in the neighboring Russian Republic of Dagestan, which Moscow attributed to Chechen terrorists.
In February 2000 Russia seized Grozny, while hostilities continued, which the Kremlin officially ended in 2009.
The Kyrgyz interim government asked Russia in 2012 to send peacekeepers to control the situation in the Kyrgyz city of Osh, where armed clashes between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks had resulted in dozens of deaths and hundreds of injuries.
Russian troops have remained in Kyrgyzstan ever since, and Russia has been the Central Asian republic’s main ally since the country’s authorities ordered the closure in 2013 of the U.S. airbase located at Manas International Airport. In 2017 the two countries agreed to extend the Russian presence for another 15 years.
In addition to the conflict in the Donbas, in March 2014 Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula, which had been part of the former Soviet republic of Ukraine and remained under Ukrainian domination when Ukraine was formed as an independent republic.
On February 22, 2014, and after three months of protests, the president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, who took refuge in Russia, was overthrown. Pro-Russian armed groups then seized the seats of the Crimean government and the Crimean Rada.
Russia’s annexation followed a referendum on the peninsula not recognized by Ukraine or the international community that was held in March of that year amid a bloodless Russian military intervention.
Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky, elected in 2019, announced on August 23, 2021 the “countdown” to Russia’s de-occupation of Crimea.
On January 2, 2022 Kazakhstan was the scene of massive protests, the most serious in its post-Soviet history, due to the rise in the price of liquefied petroleum gas, which resulted in violent riots with epicenter in the country’s largest city, Almaty, which were repressed by Kazakh forces leaving a balance of 240 dead, 4,600 wounded and 10,000 arrested.
The country’s president, Kasim-Yomart Tokayev, requested help on the 5th from the Russian-led post-Soviet military alliance, the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), to quell the “terrorist threat”, as he called the violent protests.
The organization’s members, in what was their first intervention in twenty years, sent 2,000 troops, mostly Russian, who left the country days later, once order was restored.
In 2015 Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, after four years of civil war, requested military assistance from Russia, which on September 30 of that year began an intervention with airstrikes against Islamic State positions. The course of the war changed since then with successive defeats of the jihadists and factions rebelling against President Assad.
In December 2017 Putin announced the defeat of the Islamic State in Syria as the last jihadist positions on both sides of the Euphrates River were destroyed. On December 11, he traveled to Syria and ordered the beginning of the withdrawal of Russian troops.
Russia remains present in Syria, where it has two military bases, at the Hmeimim airfield and the port of Tartus.