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CIAO Focus, August 2014: Ukraine at a New Turning Point
Ukraine is once again at a potential turning point in its young history. It missed the opportunity at independence and during the Orange Revolution to make a decisive break with an authoritarian past and move decisively toward an open, market-oriented society. Yet Ukrainian civil society remained vibrant and late last year once again spoke out against the country’s authoritarian and corrupt leaders. As a result of the protests from an enraged citizenry, then-President Viktor Yanukovych fled the country for Russia.
At that point, a severe domestic crisis in Ukraine became an international one. Angry that its preferred Ukrainian politician was no longer in power, the Kremlin took steps to seize Crimea, first clandestinely and then openly. Once that was done, Moscow began an insurgency in Ukraine’s east. Having trouble finding a sufficient number of Ukrainian volunteers to take up the struggle against their own government, the Kremlin sent in special forces and intelligence operatives to run an insurgency and to hire any locals willing to join. When those numbers did not prove adequate, Moscow sent in its own mercenaries.
The Russian aggression against Ukraine was a major violation of the post-Cold War order in Europe. It explicitly violated Russia’s obligation in the 1994 Budapest Memorandum—under which Ukraine gave up its nuclear weapons—to respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity. This prompted the United States and the European Union (EU) to level limited sanctions on Russia and to threaten major sanctions against whole sectors of the Russian economy if the Kremlin’s aggression continued.
From the CIAO Database:
Outside Sources: *
Issue Guide: Crisis in Ukraine’s Crimea (Council on Foreign Relations)
Ukraine: Top Stories, Videos, Latest Comment (The Guardian)
Ukraine Crisis: Situation Maps (Washington Post)
Ukraine Crisis: What is Happening Where? (BBC News Europe)
Why do some Ukrainians Want to be Part of Russia? (BBC News Video)
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