To better understand the current crisis occurring in Ukraine today, knowledge about the country and its background is useful. Ukraine has a history of divisiveness until the Allied victory of World War II saw it annexed and becoming a Soviet Republic, then regaining its independence as a nation-state in 1991 when the Soviet Union was dissolved.
Its first president was Leonid Kravchuk who resigned in July 1994 following a political crisis. He was succeeded by his former Prime Minister, Leonid Kuchma, then Viktor Yushchenko, second and third presidents respectively.
The fourth president, Viktor Yanukovich, began his term on February 25, 2010 but was removed by the Ukrainian parliament in Feb. 23, 2014. Until now, he maintains that it was a coup and he is still the legitimate president of the country. According to Wikipedia, Ukraine’s form of government is semi-presidential, parliamentary system.
In October 2011, Yulia Tymoshenko, former Prime Minister, opposition leader and Yanukovich’s biggest rival, was jailed for alleged embezzlement and abuse of power. European diplomats see her imprisonment as a political move and threaten negative implications. In April 2013, the European Court of Human Rights rule that the imprisonment of Tymoshenko is illegal.
Since 1994, the integration of Ukraine into the European Union has had popular support. The EU is a 28-member union of European nations whose goal is to enhance economic and political ties for the improvement of its member-countries. But the imprisonment of Tymoshenko is seen as an obstacle to fostering Ukraine’s trade agreement with the EU. On February
In November 2013, Yanukovich, under intense pressure from Russia, made an about turn and backed out of its plan to sign the political and trade agreement with EU. Russia, Belarus and Khazakhstan have their own Customs Union and want Ukraine to join them instead. As a consequence of Yanukovich’s sudden turnaround, riots broke out in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine. People protested by throwing smoke bombs and stones and the pro-government police responded by throwing teargas. The protests spread out to the other towns and cities.
Yanukovich asked for help from the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, who responded by sending Russian military forces to Crimea, a peninsula of Ukraine. For three months, the riots escalated and on February 20, 2014, its bloodiest yet conflict rendered about 100 civilians dead from police automatic gunfire and snipers. Many more were wounded. People started building barricades for protection.
Then on February 23, 2014, in the face of never-ending tension, the Parliament unseated President Yanukovich who flees Kiev and the opposition takes over. Olexandr Turchynov, current Chairman of the Ukranian Parliament, is the interim President. He is an ally of Tymoshenko who was freed right after Yanukovich’s flight from the capital.
It should be noted that the West and its allies and Russia have been fighting for influence over problem-plagued nations in Easter Europe. The United States claims to help foster democracy in these countries but the Kremlin sees their moves as an attempt to expand their economic and military dominance. And with recent disclosures of National Security Agency (NSA) machinations, Russia’s fear is probably valid.
The end is not in sight for the Ukraine crisis. Putin has far-reaching tentacles and the people’s victory is fragile.