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Why did Russia attack Ukraine?

Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union until 1991 when it gained independence. Now it's seen by both the western world and Russia as a buffer between the two.

KYIV, Ukraine — Russia launched an attack on Ukraine on Thursday, hitting cities and bases with airstrikes or shelling, from the east, north and south, according to the Associated Press.

Ukraine's government said Russian tanks and troops rolled across the border in what it called a “full-scale war.”

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Why did Russia attack Ukraine?

Located in eastern Europe, Ukraine is the second largest country by land in the area, surpassed only by its neighbor, Russia.

It was part of the Soviet Union until 1991 when it gained independence. Now it's seen by both the western world and Russia as a buffer between the two.

In 2014, Ukraine’s Russia-friendly president was replaced with a government more friendly to the West. A sign of Russia’s fading power in eastern Europe.

If Russia successfully invades, other former Soviet republics could start feeling the heat.

RELATED: READ: President Biden statement after Russia announces military operation in Ukraine

Diplomats have said this is the most tenuous situation since the end of the Cold War. At the birth of that conflict, the U.S. helped form the security alliance called NATO. Its goal was to protect members from threats by communist countries.

Credit: TEGNA
A map showing Russia, Ukraine, the Donbas Region of Ukraine and Crimea.

Now it includes three former Soviet republics and Ukraine has made moves to join.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has demanded that not happen, sparking this conflict.

An invasion could have a big economic impact.

According to the New York Times, Russia supplies about one-third of Europe’s gas and a lot of it is shipped through Ukraine.

If that supply chain was disrupted, it could drive oil prices up around the world.

An invasion could also drive up food prices. The Black Sea is a major route for the world’s grain supply. Since it borders both Russia and Ukraine, global food costs could climb.

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