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Will Putin Get His World War III?

Vladimir Putin at the Olympic Opening ceremony
Photo by Anthony Wallace/Getty Images
Julia Ioffe
February 22, 2022

Who would’ve thought that Vladimir Putin was so into numerology and anniversaries. On August 8, 2008—08/08/08—he invaded Georgia. Shortly after midnight in Moscow, on February 22, 2022—02/22/22—he sent troops (“peacekeepers,” in the Kremlin parlance) into the Donbas region of Ukraine after recognizing the independence of the two breakaway “people’s republics” of Donetsk and Luhansk. It also marked the day, exactly eight years ago, that Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych fled Ukraine (with Putin’s help) after ordering his troops to open fire on the protestors in Kyiv’s Maidan, killing over 100 people. 

That day in 2014 was a turning point. For Ukrainians, it was a day of celebration: what they called “the Revolution of Dignity” had triumphed. The old, corrupt, pro-Moscow regime was out and a new era of hope, good governance, and Westernization seemed to have dawned. (Not all these dreams would pan out, as corruption and political squabbling continued and even deepened.)