Ukraine in Chaos
Written by Marren Haneberg
Since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Ukraine has struggled economically and politically (“Ukraine”). Ukraine is battling internal and external political struggles with Russian takeover of its east regions, which began in 2013. On November 24, 2013, in response to the Ukrainian government’s decision to reject a European Union (EU) trade agreement and move closer to Russia, around 100,000 protesters gathered in Ukraine’s capital, Kiev (“Ukraine crisis: Timeline”). These protests turned violent.
On February 21, 2014, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych signed a deal with opposition protest leaders. However, on February 22, 2014, Yanukovych disappeared and parliament removed him from office. Parliament set presidential elections for May 25, 2014. Five days later, on February 27, 2014, pro-Russian gunmen stormed the capital building in Crimea, Ukraine. Unmarked soldiers of Russian origin, nicknamed little green men, began invading and fighting to take over Crimea (Pulkki). On March 16, 2014, Crimean voters approved a referendum to join Russia, though the results were later shown fraudulent. Russian little green men began gathering on the borders of Donetsk and Luhansk. The pro-Russian leaders in Donetsk and Luhansk held referendums for autonomy, which voters passed. Ukraine and the West did not recognize these results (“Ukraine crisis in maps”).
Russians arrested Ukraine’s first-ever female gunship pilot Nadiya Savchenko on June 17, 2014 (Eremko). She alleged that Russians took her hostage and across the border into Russia. During her time in Russian prison, Savchenko underwent an 80-day hunger strike (Walker). In early 2016, a Russian court sentenced her to 22 years in prison for killing two Russian journalists, charges Savchenko denied. On May 25, 2016, Russia freed Savchenko in a prisoner swap (“Nadiya Savchenko: Russia…”).
On June 20, 2014, newly elected Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko announced a peace plan and called for a weeklong truce. The truce was broken however, on June 25, when pro-Russian separatists shot down a Ukrainian helicopter, killing nine servicemen (“Poroshenko threatens to…”). On July 17, 2014, all 298 passengers and crew aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 died after the flight crashed in Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine (“Crisis in Ukraine…”). A Dutch investigation later found that a missile caused the plane to crash. Though the investigation did not blame Russian or Ukrainian fighters, Russian fighters had control of the region where the missile originated (“MH17 Ukraine disaster…”).
Fighting continued and Russian troops opened a new front on Ukraine’s coast. On September 5, 2014, Ukrainian and pro-Russia rebels signed the Minsk I ceasefire agreement; the ceasefire held four days and the agreement fell soon after. On February 15, 2015, Minsk II went into effect. Compared to Minsk I, Minsk II set more deadlines, such as for ceasefire timing and for economic aid in war torn regions (“Ukraine crisis: Leaders…”). Despite these improvements, the agreement was hardly more effective than its predecessor. Two years into this agreement, Brookings Institute reported Minsk II a failure as both sides frequently violated its conditions (Pifer).
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Eremenko, Alexey. “Ukrainian Military Pilot Nadiya Savchenko Faces Russian Verdict.” 2016. NBC News. March 20. https://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/ukraine-crisis/ukrainian-military-pilot-nadiya-savchenko-faces-russian-verdict-n540611.
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Walker, Shaun. “Ukrainian pilot: ‘I was kidnapped by separatists and taken to Russia’.” 2015. The Guardian. September 29. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/sep/29/ukrainian-pilot-nadia-savchenko-russian-court.