Four maps that explain the Russia-Ukraine conflict

A Ukrainian soldier walks along the “contact” line between national forces and Russian-backed separatists in Mariupol, in Ukraine's Donetsk region, on Jan. 20. (Andriy Dubchak/AP)
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Russia on Thursday launched a multi-pronged attack against Ukraine. President Vladimir Putin announced the military operation in an early morning address, saying that the goal of the offensive was the “demilitarization” and “denazification" of the country.

Three days into the invasion, outmanned Ukrainian forces are — for now — fending off Russian attacks in major cities, including the capital, Kyiv. Nearly 200 Ukrainians have been killed in the fighting, health officials said Saturday and more than 150,000 have fled to neighboring European countries.

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The crisis is centered in part on land borders and strategic influence. Moscow sees Ukraine as an important buffer against NATO. But Ukraine sees Russia as an aggressor that, even prior to this week’s invasion, had already occupied parts of Ukrainian territory.

Separatists in Donetsk and Luhansk, backed by Russia, have been fighting Ukrainian government forces since 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea and supported the establishment of separatist enclaves in the eastern part of the country.

Here are four maps that help explain the deep roots of the conflict and where things stand right now.