What’s going on in Ukraine?

The Ukrainian crisis has been everywhere in recent months; newspapers, social media, TV, but the real ins and outs of it are muddled and unclear. We know that Putin is putting pressure on Yanukovych, so far successfully, and that we in the EU don’t really know what to do. A look at history and its implications can help us understand why Yanukovych’s actions have caused such a powerful response. These protests have similarities to those which toppled the Communist regime in 1989- 1991 and the Orange Revolution in 2004-5. They have similar motivation; a rejection of the old authoritarian regime with a desire to reform and democratise. What democracy means in practice is perhaps not clear to some protesters but it represents freedom and ‘the West’, both of which are seen as ideals.

Many believe that the EU will provide a path to successful democracy and improved conditions in the country and that provides the basis for the protests after Yanukovych sided with Putin and refused to sign the EU-Ukraine association agreement. Since the protests began in late 2013 things have progressed quickly, with focus moving away from the EU. Feelings of success gripped many in February as the country’s parliament voted to remove Yanukovych from parliament and strip him of his powers. They quickly fell away as Putin sent Russian tanks into Crimea, justifying it as protection of the many pro-Moscow, ethnic Russians living there. He claims it is a humanitarian mission to protect citizens from ‘mortal peril’, although this ‘peril’ seems to have escaped most people. The implications of Russian occupation could be far reaching, splitting Ukraine in two with the possibility of Russian annexation of Crimea.

It is hard to know what’s actually going on as the games being played become increasingly complex. The actual events and what they mean are being repeatedly skewed by politicians so it’s hard to determine what the end game is anymore. To predict what direction the situation will take next is almost impossible and we can only hope that it will be representative of the desires of the citizens of Ukraine.

Alice Cockburn

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