Sanctions, oligarchs, terrified refugees – Ukraine invasion one month on, here’s what has happened so far

Vladimir Putin (left) and Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

  • Russian troops invaded Ukraine in the early hours of February 24. 
  • A series of sweeping global sanctions targeted Russian billionaires, known as oligarchs. 
  • Business owners, families, and students fled to neighboring countries to find refuge. 
  • For more stories visit Business Insider.

Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, launching the large-scale and unprovoked attack that had been feared for weeks. 

Insider has extensively reported on the conflict, from the debunked claims Russian President Vladimir Putin used to try and justify his decision to invade Ukraine to the US accusing Russia of war crimes for “indiscriminate attacks” on civilians and “other atrocities.” 

The crisis has led to small-business owners across Ukraine have fled their homes to seek safety, while Russian oligarchs have been targeted by Western countries’ sanctions in a bid to put pressure on Putin. 

Insider reflects on the implications this has had for citizens in both countries, as well as their businesses.

The human cost

Thousands of Ukrainians have escaped to neighboring countries after navigating packed train stations and hours-long traffic jams.

Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s secretary-general, said in a statement on the day of attack: “After weeks of escalation, a Russian invasion that is likely to lead to the most horrific consequences for human lives and human rights has begun.”

Families took shelter in subway stations, some fled taking their most precious belongings, including pets, in some cases. Meanwhile, African students fleeing the conflict encountered resistance and were prevented from crossing to Poland due to an apparent “Ukrainians first” policy. 

A transgender man escaped Russia’s invasion and painted his nails “violet and wore Mom’s shirt to look more girly,” he told Insider’s Bethany Dawson. 

Russia’s invasion impacted people worldwide. Videos of protesting Russians taking to the streets in multiple cities, including St. Petersburg and Novosibirsk, emerged a day after the attack. 

Russian journalist Oksana Baulina died after a rocket strike on a shopping center in Kyiv, while an American journalist was shot while covering the conflict. 

Consequences such as higher foods prices, gas prices spikes, and higher inflation, which is affecting interest rates on mortgages and credit cards, are other global consequences resulting from the conflict. 

Citizens previously told Insider they would not hesitate to take up arms. Taras Ivanyshyn, the owner of a small construction business in a town near Kyiv, said that his family were now armed with rifles for self-defense purposes. 

Isolating Russia

Corporations pull out

Western countries have imposed sanctions on Russia in a bid to stop Putin’s war. The sanctions have forced businesses to pull out operations from Russia, including airlines, retailers, and tech giants. 

Companies like H&M Group, Adidas, ExxonMobil, Spotify, and Apple have all ceased operations. In some cases, like McDonald’s, the company announced it was suspending its operations there, but legal agreements make it hard for the company to enforce closures at franchise stores.

Another significant sanction was the closure of airspace to Russian flights, to which Putin responded with retaliatory action. It has prolonged flight times for several destinations, such as British Airways, adding one hour of flight time to the India to London route, while Aeroflot added three hours from Serbia to Moscow.

Sanctioning oligarchs

Russia’s richest men, known as oligarchs, have been targeted by Western sanctions. Authorities have sanctioned some of the wealthiest oligarchs including Roman Abramovich, Alexei Mordashov, and Alisher Usmanov. 

Abramovich is the owner of Chelsea FC and owns two superyachts worth more than $1 billion combined. Mordashov is thought to be Russia’s third-richest person, according to Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index. Usmanov transferred his assets to trusts before sanctions hit him, and doesn’t own them any more. The UK government said on March 3 that Usmanov owns mansions worth tens of millions of dollars in the country.

Per Daniel Treisman, a professor of political science at the University of California, Russian oligarchs have been targeted by sanctions but other influential individuals are also of concern.

The country’s elite security figures “are called the siloviki,” so he coined the term silovarch to refer to these oligarchs who were siloviki. “Since then, they have become more and more dominant in Russian big business.”

Meanwhile, some of the world’s most expensive superyachts hang in the balance. While the Russian oligarchs are still technically responsible for the yachts, if European authorities do not take responsibility for the yachts’ care they will quickly waste away.

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