World·CBC Explains

Your questions answered: Russia's invasion of Ukraine

It’s been a week since Russia began its broad-scale invasion of Ukraine. Russian forces continue to press their attack on towns and cities across the country, including its capital, Kyiv. Here are some answers to questions CBC has received about the Ukraine crisis.

Russia's attack has prompted condemnation by many world leaders and triggered a raft of sanctions

A Ukrainian man stands in the rubble in Zhytomyr, Ukraine, on Wednesday, following a Russian bombing the day before. (Emmanuel Duparcq/AFP/Getty Images)

It's been over a week since Russia began its broad-scale invasion of Ukraine. Russian forces continue to press their attack on towns and cities across the country, including Kharkiv, the country's second-biggest city, and its capital, Kyiv.

Russia's ongoing attack has prompted condemnation by many world leaders and triggered a raft of sanctions that have thrown Russia's economy into disarray and left the country practically friendless, apart from a few nations like China and Belarus. 

Here are some answers to questions CBC has received about the Ukraine crisis.

What has Canada done?

Economic sanctions

Canada, along with many other Western nations, has slapped tough economic sanctions on Russia and their leader.

On Thursday, Canada said it would impose a 35-per-cent tariff on goods from Russia and Belarus by revoking the countries' "most-favoured nation" status as trade partners. North Korea is the only other nation that does not enjoy that status with Canada.

On Monday, Canada joined central banks around the world in effectively cutting Russia off from its international coffers by blocking some Russian banks from the main global payments system. The same day, Canada said it would ban Russian oil imports.

These sanctions caused the Russian ruble to plummet to a record low on Monday, Feb. 28. 

WATCH | Russian economy buckles under sanctions: 

Russian economy buckles under sanctions

2 years ago
Duration 2:06
The growing list of international sanctions has caused the value of Russia’s currency to plummet and interest rates to double, frustrating citizens who are isolated by flight bans and the lack of access to cash or many credit cards.

In the last week of February, Canada announced it would impose sanctions directly on Russian President Vladimir Putin and his inner circle of advisers, including Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Putin's chief of staff.

Canada has introduced several rounds of economic sanctions against many Russian oligarchs, and has halted export permits to the country. But many are calling on Canada to expel Russia's ambassador and sanction all its oligarchs.

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland responded Tuesday that while sanctions have not been levied as aggressively against Russian oligarchs and their economic interests in Canada, Canadians should stay tuned.

She also said Canada is planning to hit Russia with more sanctions and economic policies designed to undermine Russia's ability to wage war — and noted that some of those moves might end up hurting Canada's economy.

Military aid

Canada has sent lethal and non-lethal aid to Ukraine over the past weeks. Ottawa said Tuesday that it would send bullet-proof vests and nearly 400,000 meal packs to Ukraine, on top of its previous shipments.

Ottawa said Monday it would send a shipment of lethal aid that included anti-tank weapons systems and ammunition.

WATCH | Canada sending more anti-tank weapons, upgraded ammunition to Ukraine:

Canada sending more military aid to Ukraine

2 years ago
Duration 1:58
Canada will be sending more anti-tank weapons and upgraded ammunition to Ukraine as the government said it is trying to determine the best path to helping Ukrainians forced out of their country.

The government had previously sent two shipments of non-lethal military aid to Ukraine that included body armour, helmets, gas masks and night vision goggles, worth $32 million in total.

In late February, the federal government announced that Canada will send an additional 460 military personnel to central and eastern Europe to join the 800 Canadian Forces members already deployed to the region. 

Defence Minister Anita Anand has emphasized that a combat mission to aid Ukraine was "not on the table" for Canada or NATO allies, including the United States.

Humanitarian aid

Canada is also increasing humanitarian aid to Ukraine, and fast-tracking immigration applications from Ukraine

Immigration Minister Sean Fraser announced Thursday the federal government has created two new pathways for Ukrainians to come to Canada as part of a plan to accept an "unlimited number" of people who want to leave.

Goods such as first-aid kits are packed in London, England, on Wednesday to be sent to Poland for Ukrainian refugees. (Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images)

Fraser said his department has created a new visa category that will allow an unlimited number of Ukrainians to come to Canada to live, work or study for up to two years. 

Fraser also announced the government is introducing an "expedited path" to permanent residency for Ukrainians who already have some family in Canada.

On Tuesday, Canada said it will provide an additional $100 million to the UN to help provide humanitarian assistance to Ukrainian refugees inside and outside Ukraine, in addition to the $50 million it had already given and the recently announced $620 million in sovereign loans that Canada has extended to Ukraine.

Last week, Ottawa said it would match Canadian donations to the Red Cross in aid of Ukraine, up to a maximum of $10 million.

Airspace, ports closed to Russia

On Tuesday, Transport Minister Omar Alghabra announced the government intends to close Canadian waters and ports to Russian-owned or registered ships. His office said the order will come into effect later this week.

The announcement came after Canada, along with many other Western nations, closed their airspace to Russian aircraft operators.

-From CBC News, last updated March 3 at 11:50 a.m. ET

What are the U.S. and NATO countries doing?

In his state of the union address Tuesday night, U.S. President Joe Biden announced that the U.S. is following Canada and the European Union in banning Russian planes from its airspace in retaliation for the invasion. He also said the U.S. Justice Department was launching a task force to go after the "ill-gotten gains" of Russian oligarchs, including their yachts, luxury apartments and private jets.

Earlier, the U.S., U.K., and European Union all said they would sanction the Russian president personally, target Putin-aligned oligarchs and block some Russian banks from the main global payments system.

On Sunday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the EU would, for the first time, provide direct military aid to a country under attack, as it plans to finance the purchase and delivery of weapons to Ukraine. It also said it would ban some pro-Russian media outlets.

PHOTOS | Ukrainians endure attacks, chaos amid Russian invasion:

Germany, which has the European Union's biggest trade flows with Russia, reversed course on its plan to receive significantly more natural gas from Russia last week when German Chancellor Olaf Scholz effectively killed the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project by refusing to certify it.

For years, German interests have pushed for construction of Nord Stream 2, a multi-billion dollar pipeline under the Baltic Sea designed to double the amount of gas shipped from Russia to Germany. 

Scholz also said he would rush 1,000 anti-tank weapons and 500 Stinger missiles to Ukraine.

Last week, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz effectively killed the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline when he refused to certify the project, which would have doubled the amount of gas shipped from Russia to Germany. (Francois Mori/AP Photo)

Meanwhile, some high-tech products can no longer be exported to Russia, and on Monday, in a major blow to a soccer-mad nation, Russian teams were suspended from all international football events

NATO countries have so far ruled out enforcing a "no-fly zone" on Russian aircraft over Ukraine, even as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urged Western nations to consider such a measure to stop any further bombardment by Russia.

NATO has said establishing a no-fly zone would escalate the conflict.

-From The Associated Press and Reuters, with files CBC News, last updated March 2 at 4:30 p.m. ET

What kind of weapons are being used in Ukraine?

A U.S. official who spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity said that as of Tuesday, the U.S. assessed that Russia has launched more than 400 missiles of various types and sizes into Ukraine. 

WATCH | Russian missiles pound Kharkiv: 

Russian missiles pound Kharkiv

2 years ago
Duration 0:59
Russian missiles slammed into a government building and residential areas of Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city, killing an unknown number of people.

The invading Russian Federation commands the world's second-most powerful military, behind only the United States, having spent an estimated $61.7 billion US on defence in 2020, according to figures compiled by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. 

Ukraine spent a tenth of that, just $5.9 billion US. And that disparity shows in almost every possible comparison.

But Ukraine is receiving additional military aid from Canada, the U.S. and other countries.

Canada on Monday pledged to send 100 anti-tank weapons systems and 2,000 rockets — ammunition for the shoulder-mounted weapons — from the Canadian Armed Forces inventory. That's on top of the $7.8 million in weapons — including ammunition, handguns, machine-guns and carbines — that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau agreed to send two weeks ago. 

WATCH | Ukraine needs more long-range weapons, retired general says: 

Former commander of Canadian military calls for no-fly zone over Ukraine

2 years ago
Duration 8:28
Retired General Rick Hillier, former commander of the Canadian military, calls for a no-fly zone over Ukraine: "We have the colours of Ukraine on the Peace Tower. That's complete assistance short of real help," he says. "We're not putting our actions where our mouth is."

Countries from around the world are sending aid to Ukraine in different ways. NATO countries — from France to Turkey — have sent lethal and non-lethal military resources including anti-tank guided missiles, field rations, drones, fuel, machine guns and artillery ammunition. 

Last week, Biden instructed the U.S. State Department to release an additional $350 million worth of U.S. weapons to Ukraine.

Members of the Territorial Defence Forces of Ukraine receive weapons to defend the city of Kyiv, on Feb. 25, 2022. (Mikhail Palinchak/Reuters)

-From Reuters and The Associated Press, last updated March 2 at 5:45 p.m. ET

Where is CBC getting information about death tolls and refugee numbers?

As of Wednesday, overall death tolls from the fighting remained unclear.

On Wednesday, Russia put a figure on its casualties for the first time since the invasion began last week, with the Defence Ministry saying that 498 Russian soldiers had died in Ukraine and another 1,597 had been wounded since the beginning of Moscow's military operation there. 

The ministry also said that more than 2,870 Ukrainian soldiers had been killed and about 3,700 wounded, according to Interfax. The numbers could not be independently verified. 

PHOTOS | Major damage from shelling in Kharkiv, Ukraine's 2nd-largest city:

Ukraine insisted Russia's losses were far higher but did not immediately disclose its own casualties.

Earlier Wednesday, Ukraine's emergency service issued a statement saying the Russian invasion has killed more than 2,000 Ukrainian civilians. Children, women and defence forces "are losing their lives every hour," according to the statement, which could not be independently verified.

CBC is reporting refugee numbers obtained from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. On Tuesday, a spokesperson for the UN refugee agency told CBC that more than 874,000 refugees from Ukraine have flooded over borders into neighbouring countries in the past seven days.

Refugees fleeing war in Ukraine try to get warm at the Medyka pedestrian border crossing in Poland. (Wojtek Radwanski/AFP/Getty Images)

-From Reuters and The Associated Press with a file from CBC News, last updated March 2 at 4:20 p.m. ET

What is SWIFT? Why does it matter?

Countries around the world, including Canada, have moved to block Russian access to SWIFT, a banking communications platform used by financial institutions in over 200 countries.

SWIFT is the acronym for the Society of Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication. The Belgian-based co-operative is used by thousands of financial institutions in many countries, including Russia, and provides a secure messaging system to facilitate cross-border money transfers.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has prompted calls for Russia to be banned from SWIFT, a banking communications platform used by thousands of financial institutions. (Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty Images)

SWIFT is much like a "social network for banks" that doesn't move money around, but provides information about where the money is going, said Alexandra Vacroux, executive director of the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard University.

She said that because Russia's federal budget is highly dependent on taxes generated by the export of raw materials like oil and gas, it would make it difficult to conduct sales and then get the money needed for the budget.

Excluding Russian banks from SWIFT would restrict the country's access to financial markets around the world. 

WATCH | The Canadians going to fight, assist in Ukraine:

The Canadians going to fight, assist in Ukraine

2 years ago
Duration 3:03
As thousands flee the war in Ukraine, some Canadians are travelling there to take up arms or assist with the growing humanitarian needs even though many don't have direct ties to the country.

-From CBC News and Reuters, last updated March 2 at 5:20 p.m. ET

With files from Reuters, The Associated Press and The Canadian Press