INSIGHT: THE NEVER ENDING UNREST BETWEEN RUSSIA 🇷🇺 AND UKRAINE 🇺🇦
Many of us might be deceived into thinking that relations between two neighbours in East Europe, Russia 🇷🇺 and Ukraine 🇺🇦, is stable enough. But what we do not know is that these two countries have been arch enemies for centuries, and their enmity has taken a new turn with the Euromaidan Riots of Kiev in 2013.
The crisis began on 21 November 2013, when the then Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich suspended preparations for the implementation of an association agreement with the European Union 🇪🇺. The decision sparked mass protests from proponents of the agreement. The protests in turn precipitated a revolution that led to Yanukovich's ousting in February 2014. The ousting sparked unrest in the largely Russophone eastern and southern regions of Ukraine 🇺🇦, from where Yanukovich had drawn most of his support.
Subsequently, an ensuing political crisis developed after Russia 🇷🇺 invaded the said regions and annexed the then autonomous Ukrainian region of Crimea in March 2014. As Russia's invasion emboldened the Russophone Ukrainians already in upheaval, the unrest in the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts evolved into a war against the post revolutionary Ukrainian government. As that conflict progressed, the Russophone Ukrainian opposition turned into a pro Russian insurgency, often supported and assisted by the Russian military and its special forces.
EUROMAIDAN AND REVOLUTION: Despite being an independent country since 1991, Ukraine 🇺🇦 has been perceived by Russia 🇷🇺 as being part of its social and economic sphere of interest. Iulian Chifu and his co-authors claim that in regard to Ukraine 🇺🇦, Russia 🇷🇺 pursues a modernized version of the Brezhnev Doctrine on "limited sovereignty" which dictates that the sovereignty of Ukraine 🇺🇦 cannot be larger than that of the Warsaw Pact prior to the demise of the Soviet sphere of influence. This claim is based on statements of Russian leaders that possible integration of Ukraine 🇺🇦 into NATO would jeopardize Russia's national security.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, both nations retained very close ties. At the same time, there were several sticking points, most importantly Ukraine's significant nuclear arsenal, which Ukraine agreed to abandon in the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances on the condition that Russia and the other signatories would issue an assurance against threats or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine 🇺🇦. In 1999, Russia 🇷🇺 was one of signatories of Charter for European Security, where it reaffirmed the inherent right of each and every participating State to be free to choose or change its security arrangements, including treaties of alliance, as they evolve, both would prove worthless in 2014.
Ukraine 🇺🇦 became gripped by unrest when the Ukrainian government suspended preparations for signing the Ukraine–EU Association Agreement with the European Union on 21 November 2013, to maintain its economic relations with Russia 🇷🇺. An organised political movement known as 'Euromaidan' demanded closer ties with the European Union 🇪🇺, and the ousting of Yanukovich. This movement was ultimately successful, culminating in the February 2014 revolution, which removed Yanukovich and his government.
On 24 November 2013, clashes between protesters and police began. After a few days of demonstrations an increasing number of university students joined the protests. The Euromaidan has been characterised as an event of major political symbolism for the European Union 🇪🇺 itself, particularly as "the largest ever pro-European rally in history." During 24 January 2014, western Ukrainian cities such as Ivano Frankivsk, and Chernivtsi had protesters seize regional government buildings in protest of president Viktor Yanukovich. In Ivano Frankivsk, nearly 1500 protesters occupied the regional government building and barricaded themselves inside the building The city of Chernivtsi saw crowds of protesters storm the governors office while police officers protected the building. Uzhgorod also had regional offices blockaded, and in the western city of Lviv barricades were being erected just after previously seizing and destroying the Governor's office.
The protests continued alongside heavy police presence, regularly sub-freezing temperatures, and snow. Escalating violence from government forces in the early morning of 30 November caused the level of protests to rise, with 400K-800K protesters, according to Russia's opposition politician Boris Nemtsov, demonstrating in Kyiv on the weekends of 1 December and 8 December. In the preceding weeks, protest attendance had fluctuated from 50K to 200K during organised rallies.
Violent riots took place on 01 December and 19 January through 25 January in response to Police brutality and government repression. Starting 23 January, several Western Ukrainian Oblast (province) Governor buildings and regional councils were occupied in a revolt by Euromaidan activists. In the Russophone cities of Zaporizhzhia, Sumy, and Dnipropetrovsk, protesters also tried to take over their local government building, and were met with considerable force from both auxiliary police and government supporters.
2014 PRO RUSSIAN UNREST: President Yanukovych was forced to flee on 23 February 2014, and protests by pro-Russian and anti-revolution terrorists began in the largely Russophone region of Crimea. These were followed by demonstrations in cities across eastern and southern Ukraine 🇺🇦, including Donetsk, Luhansk, Kharkiv, and Odessa. Since 2014, multiple elections were held across Ukraine. The first election held since the ousting of President Yanukovich was the 25 May presidential election, which resulted in the election of Petro Poroshenko as president of Ukraine 🇺🇦. In the Donbas region, only 20% of polling stations were open due to threats of violence by pro-Russian separatist insurgents. Of the 2,430 planned polling stations in the region, only 426 remained open for polling.
As the war in Donbas continued, the first post revolutionary parliamentary elections in Ukraine 🇺🇦 were held on 26 October 2014. Once again, separatists stymied voting in the areas that they controlled. They held their own elections, internationally unrecognised and in violation of the Minsk Protocol peace process, on 2 November 2014. On 25 October 2015, local elections took place in Ukraine 🇺🇦. In the Donbas region the elections were held only throughout parts of the region, separatists stymied voting in the areas that they controlled. A second round of voting for the election of mayors in cities with more than 90K residents where no candidate gained more than 50% of the votes were held on 15 November 2015. Donbas general elections were held on 11 November 2018, by the Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics. Election was not held due to the ongoing heat of Russo-Ukrainian War.
The 2019 Ukrainian Presidential Election was held on 31 March and 21 April in a two-round system. There were a total of 39 candidates for the election on the ballot. The 2014 annexation of Crimea by Russia and the occupation of parts of Donetsk Oblast and Luhansk Oblast prevented around 12% of eligible voters from participating in the election. As no candidate received an absolute majority of the vote, a second round was held between the top two candidates, Valodymyr Yelenski, who played the role of Ukraine's President in a popular television comedy and the incumbent president, Petro Poroshenko on 21 April 2019. According to the Central Election Commission, Yelenski won the second round with 73.22% of the votes. Snap elections to the Ukrainian parliament were held on 21 July 2019.
Originally scheduled to be held at the end of October, these elections were brought forward after newly inaugurated President Volodymyr Zelensky dissolved parliament on 21 May 2019, during his inauguration. The election result was the one-party majority, a novelty in Ukraine, for President Zelensky's Servant of the People party with 254 seats. Out of 225 constituencies, 26 were suspended due to the March 2014 annexation of Crimea by Russia and the ongoing occupation of parts of Donetsk Oblast and Luhansk Oblast. The 2020 Ukrainian local elections took place on Sunday 25 October 2020. In the election deputies of oblast, raion and municipality councils were elected and elections for city and town mayors were held. No elections were held in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine 🇺🇦.
EFFECTS OF THE CRISIS: The crisis has had many effects, both domestic and international. According to an October 2014 estimate by the World Bank, the economy of Ukraine 🇺🇦 contracted by 8% during the year 2014 as a result of the crisis. Economic sanctions imposed on Russia 🇷🇺 by western nations contributed to the collapse in value of the Russian rouble, and the resulting Russian financial crisis. The war in Donbas caused a coal shortage in Ukraine 🇺🇦, as the Donbas region had been the chief source of coal for power stations across the country. Furthermore, Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station was forced to close down one of its reactors after an accident. The combination of these two problems led to rolling blackouts across Ukraine during December 2014.
Additionally, due to the Ukrainian crisis, a construction of a new pipeline in Turkey 🇹🇷 with an annual capacity around 63B Cubic Metres was proposed, so as to carry natural gas to Europe while completely bypassing Ukraine 🇺🇦 as a traditional transit hub for Russian gas. Progress on implementing reforms in post-revolutionary Ukraine 🇺🇦 has been said to be slow. According to a DW report in February 2016, Ukraine 🇺🇦 remained under tight grip of corruption, and little progress had been made in improving the economy. Low-level fighting continued in the Donbas. The report also said that there was talk of a Third Maidan to force the government to take action to remedy the crisis.
An IMF four-year loan program worth about $17.5B was agreed in eight tranches over 2015 and 2016, subject to conditions regarding economic reforms. Analysts disputed that the $17.5B represented a new bailout, noting that the IMF's announcement amounted to making good on "old promises rather than offering any new cash." However, due to lack of progress on reforms, only two tranches worth $6.7B were paid in 2015. A third tranche of $1.7B may be paid in June 2016 subject to the bringing into law of 19 further reform measures.
In May 2016, the IMF mission chief for Ukraine 🇺🇦 stated that the reduction of corruption was a key test for continued international support. Since about 2015, there has been a growing number of Ukrainians working in the EU 🇪🇺, especially in Poland 🇵🇱. EuroStat reported that 662,000 Ukrainians received EU 🇪🇺 residence permits in 2017, with 585,439 being to Poland 🇵🇱. The head of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine 🇺🇦 has estimated that up to 9M Ukrainians work abroad for some part of the year, and 3.2M have regular full-time work abroad with most not planning to return. World Bank statistics show that money remittances back to Ukraine 🇺🇦 have roughly doubled from 2015 to 2018, worth about 4% of GDP.
TO SUM UP HISTORY IN TOTAL: What makes the people of Ukraine so unique is their rebellious and nationalist ideas. Ukrainians have always sought absolute freedom from Russia 🇷🇺 at all times, whether good or bad. When Germany 🇩🇪 attacked the Soviet Union in World War 2, they openly supported the Nazis. When the Cold War lasted from 1948 to 1990, they still supported the United States. They have been trying to join the EU 🇪🇺 and NATO since 2013, but Russia 🇷🇺 is holding them back. Since 2015, Russia 🇷🇺 has been illegally occupying Crimea, in gross violation of international law. Throughout the Soviet Union, Ukraine 🇺🇦 has always been the first to fight for freedom. Russia's military intervention in their territory became their pain in the butt. In fact, Russians have always considered Ukrainians weak and unable to defend themselves.
Still today Russians always see Ukraine 🇺🇦 as a scape goat when it comes to the failure of their diplomats. Interestingly natural gas and oil, which help Russia to run its economy, are located in the Donbass and Luhansk on Ukrainian territory. However, they have always punished Ukraine 🇺🇦 by cutting off gas supplies, supporting the insurgents with their own weapons support to attack Ukrainian armed forces, and detaining any Ukrainian citizen or Navy official who mistakenly crossed their borders. Seeing all these unwanted troubles, the United States 🇺🇲 very often supports Ukrainians and Volodymyr Yelensky by imposing sanctions on Russia 🇷🇺. While this makes Vladimir Putin popular at his home in Russia, the truth is that US sanctions have done a lot of damage to the Russian economy. Ukraine 🇺🇦 and her citizens will continue to fight for freedom and sovereignty until the Russian government at Kremlin finally stops this seasonal madness and hybrid warfare once and for all.
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