Ukraine-Russia Crisis: Why It's Important To Use The Correct Terms When Talking About The Invasion

Some media outlets have been called out for describing the events of the last 24 hours inaccurately.
Putin's speech on Monday made his plans to escalate the conflict with Ukraine very clear
Putin's speech on Monday made his plans to escalate the conflict with Ukraine very clear
ALEXEY NIKOLSKY via Getty Images

Russia has just sent troops into two Ukrainian territories and presented it as a “peacekeeping” operation – but that’s far from reality.

A brief summary of what’s happened

Russian president Vladimir Putin has been gradually increasing the pressure around Ukraine in recent weeks by building up a military presence of up to 190,000 troops.

He and the Kremlin want Ukraine to be under Russia’s sphere of influence, rather than in league with the West which Moscow sees as “anti-Russian”.

Ukraine, however, want to align itself with the West further by joining the EU and Nato (the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation), while holding onto its own sovereignty.

Despite calls for de-escalation from the West, Putin doubled-down on his threats by invading two regions of Ukraine on Monday, and declaring they were now independent of Ukraine.

It’s worth noting that these two regions have effectively been under Russian control since the Kremlin pushed for a separatist war there back in 2014.

A map showing how the crisis has moved on in the last 24 hours
A map showing how the crisis has moved on in the last 24 hours
PA GraphicsPress Association Images

How Russia has justified it

During a broadcasted speech on Monday, Putin tried to justify Russia’s actions by pinning the aggression on Ukraine, rather than his own country.

He said he was acting to “maintain peace” after recognising the independence of the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Luhansk, which have also been dubbed “breakaway regions”.

This could mean Putin believes he has a legal basis for his troops to engage in direct conflict with Ukrainian forces, especially as he signed a decree recognising the independence of Donetsk and Luhansk.

Russian troops will also guard the borders of the regions and will set up military bases on their territory.

Putin went on to accuse the Ukrainian government of looking to commit “genocide” by seeking nuclear weapons with the West’s assistance.

He asked: “How long can this tragedy continue?”

The Russian president added: “We demand that those who seized power in Kyiv immediately stop hostilities, otherwise the responsibility for the continuing bloodshed will rest entirely with the Ukrainian regime.”

He claimed the country’s independence was the result of “various mistakes of the Bolsheviks and the Communist party”, before alleging that the Ukrainian government has breached the ceasefire agreement of 2015.

He even accused Western allies of trying to contain Russia, saying sanctions have been issued “just because we exist”.

How outlets reported Putin’s speech

As several commentators have pointed out, some media outlets did repeat Putin’s phrases of “breakaway regions” and “peacekeeping” troops (while not using the word “invasion”) subsequently amplifying the president’s dangerous rhetoric.

One critic said that to use these terms was to “fall victim” to Putin’s propaganda.

Why this matters

Putin’s decision to move into the Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Luhansk cannot be described as a “peacekeeping” mission when Russia has backed the separatists in the area to stoke conflict for years.

Around 15,000 people have died in that area since 2014 during fights between separatists – who had Covid vaccines, military support and financial aid from Russia – and those who wanted to stay as part of Ukraine.

As prime minister Boris Johnson pointed out that the move into the Ukrainian regions was a clear “breach of international law” and so it would trigger sanctions from the West.

The US national security adviser Jake Sullivan said on Monday: “It will be a war waged by Russia on the Ukrainian people to repress them, to crush them, to harm them.”

Another US official also claimed that Putin’s speech “to the Russian people” aimed to “justify a war”, adding: “We believe this made clear his true intentions. He made clear he views Ukraine historically as part of Russia.”

The Ukrainian president, who was democratically elected in 2019, has made it clear that he believes his country does not want to be absorbed by Russia too.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy said: “We are not afraid. We won’t cede anything. We are committed to peace and diplomacy. We are on our land, we are not afraid of anyone or anything and we will not give anything to anyone, and we are sure of that.”


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