They thought it would be quick and dirty.
They thought it would be easy.
They thought they'd have the support of the local population.
And they thought they could pull it off with plausible deniability.
But they were wrong on all counts.
Three years ago today, Russia's effort to dismember a country began in earnest when Kremlin-backed mobs and militias stormed and occupied government buildings in Donetsk, Luhansk, and other eastern Ukrainian cities.
Three years ago today, Russia's war in the Donbas began.
And as a result, nearly 10,000 people are dead, approximately 23,000 are wounded, and almost 1.8 million are displaced.
Russia's invasion of eastern Ukraine was a colossal miscalculation.
The Kremlin believed that language and ethnicity translated into political loyalty.
Vladimir Putin's regime thought Ukraine's Russophone was automatically pro-Moscow; that not just Donetsk and Luhansk, but Kharkiv, Odesa, and Mariupol as well would fall like dominoes.
They were dreaming about Novorossia and a new Russian Empire.
And they thought it would be as smooth and as easy as Crimea.
It was a mistake and a crime driven by hubris.
And it was a mistake and a crime that Ukraine is still paying the price for.
Three years after Russia's invasion of eastern Ukraine, the Kremlin is desperately trying to change the subject. And we shouldn't let them.