The Ukraine Situation

EUROMAIDEN – THE START

The Ukraine Situation_1The Euromaiden is a wave of ongoing demonstrations, civil unrest and revolution in Ukraine, which began on the night of 21 November 2013 with public protests demanding closer European integration. The scope of the protests expanded, with many calls for the resignation of President Viktor Yanukovych. By 25 January 2014, the protests had been fueled by the perception of widespread government corruption, abuse of power, and violation of human rights in Ukraine. Unrest stemming from the Euromaiden protests and subsequent, violent government response has prompted fears of civil war

The demonstrations began on the night of 21 November 2013, when protests erupted in the capital, Kiev, after the Ukrainian government suspended preparations for signing an Association Agreement and a Free Trade Agreement with the European Union, in order to seek closer economic relations with Russia. The president had asked for 20 billion USD in loans and aid. The EU was willing to offer 610 million euros (838 million USD) in loans, however Russia was willing to offer 15 billion USD in loans. Russia also offered Ukraine cheaper gas prices. In addition to the money, the EU required major changes to the regulations and laws in Ukraine; Russia, however, did not.On 24 November 2013, first clashes between protesters and police began. Protesters strived to break cordon. Police used tear gas and batons, protesters also used tear gas and some fire crackers (according to the police, protesters were the first to use them). After a few days of demonstrations an increasing number of university students joined the protests. Despite currently unmet demands to renew Ukraine-EU integration, the Euromaiden has been repeatedly characterized as an event of major political symbolism for the European Union itself, particularly as “the largest ever pro-European rally in history”

The protests are ongoing despite 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 demonstrating in Kiev on the weekends of 1 December and 8 December. In the weeks since, protest attendance has fluctuated from 50,000 to 200,000 during organized rallies. Violent riots took place1 December and 19 January through 25 in response to police brutality and government repression. Since 23 January several western Ukrainian Oblast (province) Governor buildings and regional councils have been occupied in a revolt by Euromaiden activists. In the Russophone cities of Zaporizhzhya, Sumy, and Dnipropetrovsk, protesters also tried to take over their local government building, and have been met with considerable force from both police and government supporters.

UKRAINIAN REVOLUTION:

The Ukraine Situation_2The 2014 Ukrainian revolution began with a series of violent episodes of civil unrest in Kiev, Ukraine, as part of Ukraine’s ongoing Euromaiden protest movement against the government. The conflict escalated rapidly, leading to the downfall of the government of President Viktor Yanukovych and the setting up of a new government to replace it within a few days. Yanukovych fled to Russia, and is wanted in Ukraine for the killing of protesters. The conflict continued with the 2014 Crimean crisis when Pro-Russian forces seized control of the Crimea region.

Most of the world treated the events as a revolution, but Russia and Yanukovych denounced it as a coup d’état.

THE CRIMEAN INVOLVEMENT:

The Crimean crisis is an ongoing international crisis involving Russia and Ukraine, and centered on the peninsula of Crimea—a region of Ukraine that comprises a majority of ethnic Russians but that has undergone dramatic changes in its population for the past 200 years. The region is also home to several Russian military bases.

The crisis unfolded in late February 2014 in the aftermath of the 2014 Ukrainian revolution. After months of protests by euromaiden and days of armed violence in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev, the elected national government of Ukraine was ousted and replaced with leaders the opposition forming the Yatsenyuk Government. Russia then condemned the government as illegitimate, it considers the replacement of the former pro-Russian government as a coup d’état. On February 23, the new legislature passed a controversial law banning the use of minority languages on official documents, which was denounced by Hungary and Russia.

A few days afterwards, unidentified troops claimed by Russia to be local self-defence forces but believed to be Russian soldiers, gradually seized control of the peninsula. A Russian military operation inside Ukrainian territory followed soon after with Ukrainian Army limiting their resistance to refusing to surrender.

Several days later, on 11 March, after disagreements between Crimea, Sevastopol, and the newly installed government in Ukraine, the Crimean parliament and the city council of Sevastopol adopted a bill showing their intention to unilaterally declare themselves independent as a single united nation should voters approve to do so in an upcoming referendum.

Diplomatically, Ukraine does not recognize the actions taken by Crimea and Sevastopol, nor does it recognize their recently appointed governments. It did, however, mobilize its armed forces and reserves. Russia, on the other hand, vowed that its troops would stay until the political situation has been normalized while recognizing the recently appointed governments of Crimea and Sevastopol, as well as the referendum and its possible outcome where both territories would declare themselves independent.

At the international level, the European Union, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Canada, Poland and Turkey, amongst other nations, condemned Russia, accusing it of breaking international law and violating Ukrainian sovereignty. It is unclear, however, whether the Russian troop movements within Crimea and Sevastopol are legitimate or not as Russia and Ukraine ratified a treaty that allows Russia to maintain up to 25,000 troops in the aforementioned territories.

THE FULL TIMELINE:

Ukraine has accused Russia of staging an “armed invasion” of its Crimea Peninsula after unidentified pro-Moscow gunmen appeared on the streets of The Ukraine Situation_3the region.

The development comes after Ukraine’s new government, which came to power after the removal of President Viktor Yanukovich through deadly anti-government protests, has called for fresh presidential elections on May 25. The move has been countered by the Crimea administration that has announced plans for a referendum on the same date to decide on the region’s future.

As the government in Kiev continues to emphasise the need for a united Ukraine, here is a timeline of some of the events that have led to the current situation.

Nov 21: Yanukovich announces abandonment of a trade agreement with the EU, seeking closer ties with Moscow.

Nov 30: Public support grows for pro-EU anti-government protesters as images of them bloodied by police crackdown spread online and in the media.

Dec 1: About 300,000 people protest in Kiev’s Independence Square. The City Hall is seized by activists.

Dec 16: Anti-protest laws are passed and quickly condemned as “draconian”.

Dec 17: Russian President Vladimir Putin announces plans to buy $15bn in Ukrainian government bonds and a cut in cost of Russia’s natural gas for Ukraine.

Jan 22: Two protesters die after being hit with live ammunition. A third dies following a fall during confrontation with police.

Jan 28: Mykola Azarov resigns as Ukraine’s prime minister and the parliament repeals anti-protest laws that caused the demonstrations to escalate in the first place.

Jan 29: A bill is passed, promising amnesty for arrested protesters if seized government buildings are relinquished.

Jan 31: Opposition activist Dmytro Bulatov found outside Kiev after being imprisoned and tortured for eight days, apparently at the hands of a pro-Russian group.

Feb 16: Opposition activists end occupation of Kiev City Hall. In exchange 234 jailed protesters are released.

Feb 18: More street clashes leave at least 18 dead and around a hundred injured. Violence begins when protesters attack police lines after the parliament stalls in passing constitutional reform to limit presidential powers. Protesters take back government buildings.

Feb 20: Violence resumes within hours of a truce being announced. Government snipers shoot protesters from rooftops leading to deadliest day of the crisis so far with over 70 deaths.

Feb 21: Protest leaders, the political opposition and Yanukovich agree to form a new government and hold early elections. Yanukovich’s powers are slashed. The parliament votes to free Yulia Tymoshenko, the former prime minister, from prison. Yanukovich flees Kiev after protesters take control of the capital.

Feb 22: Ukraine politicians vote to remove Yanikovich. Tymoshenko is freed from prison and speaks to those gathered in Kiev. May 25 is set for fresh presidential elections.

Feb 23: Ukraine’s parliament assigns presidential powers to its new
Speaker, Oleksandr Turchinov, an ally of Tymoshenko. Pro-Russian protesters rally in Crimea against the new Kiev administration.

Feb 24: Ukraine’s interim government draws up a warrant for Yanukovich’s arrest.

Feb 25: Pro-Russian Aleksey Chaly is appointed Sevastopol’s de facto mayor as rallies in Crimea continue.

Feb 26: Crimean Tartars supporting the new Kiev administration clash with pro-Russia protesters in the region. Potential members of the new Ukrainian government appear before crowds in Independence Square. Turchinov announces disbanding of Berkut – the feared riot police. Russian troops near border with Ukraine are put on alert and drilled for “combat readiness”.

The Ukraine Situation_4Feb 27: Pro-Kremlin armed men seize government buildings in Crimea. Ukraine government vows to prevent a country break-up as Crimean parliament set May 25 as the date for referendum on region’s status. Yanukovich is granted refuge in Russia.

Feb 28: Armed men in unmarked combat fatigues seize Simferopol international airport and a military airfield in Sevestopol. The Ukrainian government accuses Russia of aggression. UN Security Council holds an emergency closed-door session to discuss the situation in Crimea. The US warns Russia of militarily intervening in Ukraine. Moscow says military movements in Crimea are in line with previous agreements to protect its fleet position in the Black Sea. Yanukovich makes his first public appearance, in southern Russia.

March 1: As situation worsens in Crimea, local leaders ask for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s help. Russian upper house of the parliament approves a request by Putin to use military power in Ukraine.

March 2: A convoy of hundreds of Russian troops heads towards the regional capital of Ukraine’s Crimea region, a day after Russia’s forces takes over the strategic Black Sea peninsula without firing a shot. Arseny Yatsenyuk, Ukraine’s new prime minister, says his country is on the “brink of disaster” and accuses Russia of declaring war on his country.

March 3: NATO says Moscow is threatening peace and security in Europe – claims Russia says will not help stabilise the situation. Russia’s Black Sea Fleet tells Ukrainian navy in Sevastopol in Crimea to surrender or face a military assault.

March 4: In his first public reaction to the crisis in Ukraine, Putin says his country reserves the right to use all means to protect its citizens in eastern Ukraine. Russian forces fired warning shots on unarmed Ukrainian soldiers marching towards an airbase in Sevastopol.

March 5: US Secretary of State John Kerry seeks to arrange a face-to-face meeting between Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers. However, Sergey Lavrov refuses to talk to his Ukrainian counterpart, Andriy Deshchytsia. Meanwhile, NATO announces a full review of its cooperation with Russia. OSCE sends 35 unarmed military personnel to Ukraine for “providing an objective assessment of facts on the ground.”

March 6: US announces visa restrictions on Russians and Ukraine’s Crimeans who it says are “threatening the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine”. Meanwhile, Crimea’s parliament votes unanimously in favour of joining Russia. Hours later, the city council of Sevastopol in Crimea announces joining Russia immediately.

March 7: Ukraine offers talks with Russia over Crimea, but on the condition that the Kremlin withdraw troops from the autonomous republic. Meanwhile, top Russian politicians meet Crimea’s delegation with standing ovation and express their support for the region’s aspirations of joining Russia.

March 8: Warning shots are fired to prevent an unarmed international military observer mission from entering Crimea. Russian forces become increasingly aggressive towards Ukrainian troops trapped in bases.

March 9: Yatsenyuk vows Ukraine would not give “an inch” of its territory to Russia during a rally celebrating 200 years since the birth of national hero and poet Taras Shevchenko as rival rallies in Sevastopol lead to violence.

March 14: Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations has told an emergency meeting of the Security Council that Moscow “does not want war” with Ukraine. Vitaly Churkin was responding to a direct question from Ukraine’s interim PM Arseniy Yatsenyuk. But Mr Churkin gave an impassioned defence of Crimea’s right to hold a referendum on whether to join Russia.

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