10 Ukrainian Crisis Facts - WMNews Ep. 6



10 Ukrainian Crisis Facts - WMNews Ep. 6

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton
Script written by Angela Fafard

As tensions rise between Russia and the West in what is perhaps their worst confrontation since the Cold War, Ukraine remains the epicenter for the potential breakout of real war between Europe and Russia. Welcome to WatchMojo News, the weekly series from that breaks down news stories that might be on your radar. In this instalment, we’re counting down 10 crucial facts you should know about the Ukrainian Crisis.
Script written by Angela

Top 10 Ukrainian Crisis Facts

#10: When Did This Crisis Begin?
Revolution in Kiev

On December 1st, 1991, citizens of the Ukraine voted overwhelmingly in favor of independence, a move that was part of the dissolution of the Soviet Union, which happened that same year. Since then, the question has remained: should the Ukraine keep closer ties with Russia or the European Union? When Viktor Yanukovych was elected president of the Ukraine in 2004, accusations of dishonesty and even voter fraud were levied, leading to a series of protests called the Orange Revolution. In a revote, Yanukovych's opponent Viktor Yushchenko was declared president but ultimately Yanukovych was returned to the president's office in a 2010 election. In 2013, Yanukovych backed out of his promise to an historic trade agreement with the EU that would’ve opened the country’s borders, allowing for modernization, foreign trade and economic growth. However, Russia – still an important Ukrainian ally – bullied the small country into dropping the deal, offering incentives like cheap natural gas to sweeten the pot. Needless to say, much of the Ukrainian population was outraged, and on November 21st, 2013 they took to the streets to express their displeasure as the Euromaiden movement. The dissenters who sought closer relations with the EU and to oust Yanukovych grew in number from there. And that’s without even mentioning Crimea, which is region caught between the Ukraine and Russia that is rich in oil and gas.

#9: What Happened to the Leaders?
President & Prime Minister Ousted

Towards the end of January of 2014, tensions rose due to an anti-protest law imposed by Ukrainian parliament. It was around that time that Prime Minister Mykola Azarov resigned. Unrest continued and February saw many deadly clashes, with over one hundred people killed, as protesters and police vied for control of Independence Square. Before the end of the month, President Viktor Yanukovych went missing as protesters overtook government buildings. He was later found to be in exile in Russia, but his disappearance allowed for an election to be held in May, wherein Petro Poroshenko earned a decisive victory to become President of the Ukraine.

#8: How Are the Russians Involved?
Stealth Invasion

In mid-February 2014, Parliament banned Russian as a second official language, leading to an uproar in the Russian speaking community, and ultimately to the overturning of said law. Pro-Russian gunmen seized key buildings in the Crimean capital in April 2014, coming on the heels of Russia’s decision to approve the use of military force in Ukraine to protect Russian interests. In a vote of succession, residents of Crimea decided to join Russia; however, world leaders and organizations declared the vote illegal and undemocratic. As it currently stands, it is a frozen conflict as Russian troops occupy the territory and pro-Ukrainian and Crimean Tatars continue to resist the occupation of their land. Now this would not be so troubling to the Ukraine were it not for the 1994 Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances, which called for the removal of nuclear weapons that were left in Ukraine following the breakup of the USSR. In exchange, the Ukraine was basically guaranteed protection from Russian intervention.

#7: Who Are the Key Players?
The West vs. Russia

There are two opposing factions in this current conflict, the Pro-Ukrainian Forces backed by Ukraine, EU countries and the United States, and Pro-Russian separatists. Amid allegations from the world leaders, Russia has staunchly denied providing military aid to the rebels who have control of Crimea – a strategically important region under heavy dispute. NATO also plays a part in this frozen conflict as they’ve promised to aid Ukraine in times of illegal occupation.

#6: What Are the Legal Ramifications?
NATO Treaty

On July 9th, 1997 Ukraine and NATO signed a formal agreement, promising security assurances in exchange for Ukraine giving up their nuclear weapons. Formally stated, in the event that Ukraine perceives a direct threat to its status as a whole, yet sovereign nation, NATO will intervene on its behalf. During this crisis NATO has provided non-lethal equipment as well as training and assistance to help strengthen the Ukrainian military. According to Vladimir Putin, any further action in the form of lethal equipment would entail a direct violation of agreements reached with the United States.

#5: How Has the Rest of the World Reacted?

The international reaction to the 2014 Ukrainian crisis has been swift, as many members of the G20 union have applied sanctions against Russia in order to make their opinions known. These sanctions have included travel bans, transaction bans on several banks and energy companies, import restrictions and more. These measures have been taken in order to bring about policy change. Russia has reciprocated by enforcing their own sanctions in the form of food import bans, as well as a ban on its airspace.

#4: How Has Russia Responded?
G20 Summit

Russia has consistently denied involvement in the fighting in Ukraine but evidence obtained by Amnesty International suggests that Russia is fueling the conflict by supporting separatists with troops and weapons. At a G20 summit in Australia in November 2014, leaders convened to discuss a number of topics including the conflict in Ukraine and further sanctions, with many of those heads of state asserting that Russia should get out of Ukraine. Putin left the discussions early, but not before cryptically stating that a solution to the Ukraine crisis was possible.

#3: How Has the Crisis Affected the Economy?
Global Involvement

As the situation continues to deteriorate, the economy of Ukraine is an extremely precarious position as it tumbles into a deep recession. Ukraine’s strained economic ties with neighboring Russia have resulted in difficult adjustments. In November 2014, the nation’s currency was trading at record lows, despite help from the International Monetary Fund to stabilize it. According to the IMF, Ukraine’s economic weakness could cause public debt to rise above 70% this year. As that is above its high-risk threshold rating, questions have surfaced regarding the sustainability of such a debt.

#2: Has the Conflict Ended?
Human Rights

Perhaps one of the higher profile international stories to come out of this crisis is the crash of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 In July 2014. Experts suspect it was shot down, with Russians claiming Ukrainians did it and vice versa. That disaster is only part of the reason why, on September 5th, 2014, a truce was signed by the Ukraine and pro-Russian rebels. Though it was meant as a ceasefire after months of clashes that killed thousand and displaced almost half a million, it’s estimated that over 1,000 people died as a result of the fighting in the few months that followed. Amnesty International has called out both sides for violations and possible war crimes.

#1: What Is the Outlook for the Future?
Bright or Broken

As tensions rise during this conflict, Russia and the West become locked in a frozen stalemate: with Ukraine locked in the middle, the U.S. and EU think Russia has a lot of power over the small country, while Russia refutes the claim. The only viable option available to either party is a political solution that would likely entail acknowledgement of Russia’s hold on Crimea as well as the sovereignty of Ukraine. For the moment, Ukraine remains in limbo as it balances on the delicate edge of an ineffective “ceasefire,” in the hopes of avoiding a social and humanitarian crisis within its borders.

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