The Ukraine problem explained

Mar 09, 2014 | Comments

The hottest global news recently has been about ouster of Ukraine president Viktor Yanukovych and the russian invasion of Ukraine. I’m generally indifferent towards international politics but it’s becoming pretty big of an issue such that even technology blogs that i follow started posting news about these messy squabbles. I spent about 2 hours reading up whatever i can find on this issue and i’ll try to explain it as clear as possible. So other political frog-in-a-well people (like me) can understand. Beware, what’s going on below is extremely complicated. I suggest you close this tab right now if you have something better to do.

Still up for this shit? Here goes.

How did Ukraine come about?

ukraine map

So this is Ukraine, the second largest country in europe by area and Crimea peninsula is that little almost-island like area below. During the crimean war, A.D 1853- A.D 1856, it was sort of the Catholics vs the Orthodox but in grandier scale it was the European powers vs Russia as the Ottoman empire decline. Eventually Russia was defeated and the war accumulated a death of 500,000. In a claim of territory for the victors, many european moved over to what is present day Ukraine and settled there, together with some of the indigenious russians. But trouble never ceased and somewhat contributed to the World War I 60 years later.

At the end of World War I, Russian revolution begun and gave birth to communism. The russians were too busy overthrowing their own government and had no time to bother its neighbours such as Ukraine. It was these brief period that Ukraine had some days of independence. Finally when Russia became USSR, under the soviet regime, they incited its neighbouring countries to embrace communism. So between 1917 - 1921, another 1.5million people died around the russian neighbours and eventually led to Ukraine being a satellite country of the mighty USSR. Things became worse after that. When Joseph Stalin took over, the purging began and almost 10 million Ukrainians died between 1932 - 1933. What’s worse, during World War II, Stalin deported the entire population of Crimea to central asia and moved Russians into Ukraine. Imagine a foreigner coming to your home and kicking you out? That’s what happened to Crimea. Nikita Khrushchev, stalin’s successor, then decided to transfer the Crimean Peninsula from Russia to Ukraine in 1954. Why? Because Crimean Peninsula is not geographically attached to Russia mainland. It will be easier to administer places where you are geographically connected.

What are the Ukraine ethnic groups?


Today, 67% of people in Ukraine speaks Ukrainian as their first language. 30% speaks Russian, although only about 17% of them identify themselves as Russian. When USSR dissolved, many Russians from Crimea returned to their homes in Russian so as of today, only 12% of Russians are located in the Crimean Peninsula.

What kind of government did Ukraine had?

In December 1991, after the Soviet Union broke up, Ukraine had a nation-wide referendum and 90% of its people, including people in Crimean Peninsula, voted for independence from Russia. But in effect, Ukraine had much closer ties with Russia than any other previous Soviet satellite countries.

In 2004, there was a general election. The election was plagued with vote rigging and eventually the pro-Russian leader Viktor Yanukovych(the dude who got overthrown) was elected to become the president. His opponent, the opposition, Viktor Yushchenko led a series of massive protest on the injustice and rigged election. Eventually Viktor Yushchenko was disfigured, crucified and purged. In the following years, since Putin came to power in Russia, the number of assassinations and poisoning of political dissidents skyrocketed in Ukraine. Coincidence? Nope.

Viktor Yanukovych had almost dictatorial power in Ukraine. But despite being an economist, he wasn’t particularly gifted in bringing the country’s economy to prosperity and people suffered under his rule. Furthermore, his friendliness towards the western european countries angered Russia whom cut off gas supplies briefly in 2006 and led to few national disasters in Ukraine.

In 2010 election, Viktor Yanukovych was elected president.

Ok enought history lesson. What is the latest Ukraine issue about?

In November 2013, Viktor Yanukovych denounced an agreement to strengthen ties with the European Union and become a closer ally with Russia. This single event sparked the massive protest in the nation, starting from The Independence Square. The protests lasted several months and dozens of protesters were killed by military police and government troops. On 1st March 2014, Viktor Yanukovych fled from his house in Kiev. The protesters had won. Following on, the people called for new elections. Putin was not happy with this outcome. He ostensibly pushed his troops into the Crimean Peninsula in the name of protecting the ethnic Russians in the region. This violated the territory integrity of Ukraine and Ukraine kicked up a big freaking deal.

At this moment, Crimea is already an autonomous province. It had rights to govern itself without much interference from Ukraine. Although it’s electricity and water still comes from Ukraine. So what does Crimea want? Independence? Unification with Russia? Well, Crimea doesn’t know what she wants herself. And that’s why there has been so much fuss on the international stage.

Ukraine has a law that Ukraine is only to be governed by Ukrainians. Sounds legit right? But the problem is, many people in the country still speak russian instead of Ukrainian. Furthermore, the new government wants to be a part of European Union which might mean that it will bring in North Atlantic Treat Organization(NATO) military defences into Ukraine. This is a huge deal for Russia as it means now we have missles deployed right at its doorstep. That is unacceptable to Russia.

But in the viewpoint of western countries, Ukrain had a tyrannical leader who ordered the murder of peaceful protestors and was chased away from power and replaced with a government that will transition Ukraine to a free and fair election. Russia responded to that by invading Ukraine.

I would attribute much of the present day tension between east and west to the differences in these viewpoints. Russia took a pre-emptive measure to secure its borders from unfriendly states while the western countries worried for a resurgence of Soviet Union and trampling of a democratic state.

What’s ironical is that the word ‘Ukraine’ means border-land and it has been the border between eastern and western countries for decades. Much of what we are seeing now is just another re-enactment of previous clashes.

So that’s about it. Do you have a good solution to this? I don’t. I’m just a programmer who writes ‘hello world’ and wishes for world peace.