The Ukrainian crisis is the collective name for the 2013–14 Euromaidan protests associated with emergent social movement of integration of Ukraine into the European Union, the 2014 Ukrainian revolution and the ensuing pro-Russian unrest.
The crisis began on 21 November 2013, when then-president Viktor Yanukovych 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 Yanukovych's ousting in February 2014. The ousting sparked unrest in the largely Russophone eastern and southern regions of Ukraine, from where Yanukovych had drawn most of his support. Subsequently, an ensuing political crisis developed after Russia invaded 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.
Despite being an independent country since 1991, Ukraine has been perceived by Russia as being part of its social and economic sphere of interest. Political analyst 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 the signatories of the 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 futile in 2014.
Euromaidan and revolution
Ukraine became gripped by unrest when the Ukrainian government suspended preparations for signing the Ukraine–European Union 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 Yanukovych. This movement was ultimately successful, culminating in the February 2014 revolution, which removed Yanukovych 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 Yanukovych. In Ivano-Frankivsk, nearly 1,500 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 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 400,000–800,000 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 50,000 to 200,000 during organised rallies. Violent riots took place 1 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 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.
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 63 billion cubic metres (bcm) 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 BBC report in February 2016, Ukraine remained gripped by 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 $17.5 billion was agreed in eight tranches over 2015 and 2016, subject to conditions regarding economic reforms. Analysts disputed that the $17.5 billion 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 $6.7 billion were paid in 2015. A third tranche of $1.7 billion 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.
- Casualties of the Ukrainian crisis
- Cold War II
- Ukraine–European Union relations
- Ukraine–NATO relations
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Doubts about the Kremlin's readiness to push pro-Russian militants to surrender their guns have been strengthened by its insistence that it has no hand in or control over the separatist unrest, which Washington and Kiev believe is the result of a covert Russian operation involving, in some places, the direct action of special forces.
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