After weeks of mounting tension, and growing fears that a war in Europe was imminent, Russia’s president Vladimir Putin announced a “special military operation” against the Ukraine. The rest of the world was in no doubt: Russia’s invasion of its western neighbour had begun.

How did it come to this? Olivia Durand sets out how Putin has been softening up the world for this moment for years. In 2014 he wrote: “Kiev is the mother of Russian cities.” A few days later Russia completed the annexation of Crimea. Eight years later he has returned to this theme – backed by the might of Russia’s armed forces. Days before the invasion he delivered an hour-long speech in which he made clear his desire to create a third imperial regime. The invasion of Ukraine is part of this masterplan.

In addition to troops on the ground, Moscow has been launching cyber attacks to undermine Ukraine’s defence capabilities. Mamoun Alazab explains.

A war in eastern Europe may feel distant to many in the world. But the ripple effects are already starting to be felt. As Wandile Sihlobo warns, African leaders in particular should pay attention because Russia and Ukraine are deeply embedded in the world’s agricultural and food markets. The conflict has already fed through into a spike in commodity prices. African countries are going to be hit hard. In 2020 African countries imported agricultural products worth US$4 billion from Russia – most of it wheat. The major importing countries were Egypt, followed by Sudan, Nigeria, Tanzania, Algeria, Kenya and South Africa.

From the US, William Hauk issues a similar warning: the war may feel very distant, but, there will be an economic cost that Americans will be forced to pay.

Caroline Southey

Founding Editor

Putin’s invasion of Ukraine attacks its distinct history and reveals his imperial instincts

Olivia Durand, University of Oxford

The Russian leader’s assertion that Ukraine is an ‘artificial construct’ is not borne out by the historical record.

Russia is using an onslaught of cyber attacks to undermine Ukraine’s defence capabilities

Mamoun Alazab, Charles Darwin University

Further cyber exploitation of Ukraine could cause citizens immense distress at this critical moment.

How Russia-Ukraine conflict could influence Africa’s food supplies

Wandile Sihlobo, Stellenbosch University

Every agricultural role-player is keeping an eye on the developments in the Black Sea region.

America’s cost of ‘defending freedom’ in Ukraine: Higher food and gas prices and an increased risk of recession

William Hauk, University of South Carolina

Russia’s invasion will likely accelerate the fastest inflation in 40 years, increasing the risks for the overall US economy.

The macaque monkeys of Mauritius: an invasive alien species, and a major export for research

Vincent Florens, University of Mauritius

Macaques are an alien species - and the endemic plants and animals of the island haven’t adapted to protect themselves against these monkeys.