Intoduction on Ukraine and Russia diplomatic relations

Over the past few years, the relationship between Russia and its neighbour, Ukraine has been unpleasant and nonsensical. Russia and Ukraine were part of former Soviet Union. After 1991 Soviet Union disseverment, both the countries have been in the situation of starting a mini world war at times.

Russia is a nuclear power country and has the world’s second largest military in terms of nuclear weapons and reserved troops. On the other hand, Ukraine has a weak military as compared to Russia and does not have any nuclear weapon after its denuclearisation policy in 2014, when they decided to accede to the Nuclear Non- Proliferation Treaty to become a non nuclear weapon state.

Before we get into the topic, first understand the history of Ukraine formation and its ethical and political tension within the country which led to the crisis in 2014, that has not only taken a shape of mini war between the two countries, but had also created a civil war in Ukraine over the past few years.

Ukraine – Borderland of Europe & Asia

Ukraine is a sovereign state in Eastern Europe, bordered by Russia to the east and northeast; Belarus to the northwest; Poland, Hungary, and Slovakia to the west; Romania and Moldova to southwest; and the Black Sea and Sea of Azov to the south and southeast.

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Ukraine

Ukraine was the part of Soviet Union until 1991 when 15 nations of the Union revolted for independence. Ukraine became the third largest country after Russia and Kazakhstan in terms of area.

The meaning of Ukraine is ‘Borderland’ and in fact, it is true because it separates entire Europe from Russia or formerly Soviet Union. Ukraine demographic is really complicated and this has been a major cause of political tension within the country.

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Ukraine’s population is divided into two groups: – Russian speakers and Ukrainian speakers. According to the constitution, the official language of Ukraine is Ukrainian. Russian is widely spoken in Eastern and Southern Ukraine. On the other hand, Ukrainian is widely spoken in Northern and Western part of the country. According to a survey in 2001, 67.5 percent of the population are Ukrainian speakers and 29.6 percent are Russian speakers.

Rise in tension within the country

Viktor Yanukovych

In 2010 Ukrainian presidential elections, Viktor Yanukovych from Party of Regions defeated former Prime Minister of Ukraine, Yulia Tymoshenko of Fatherland Party. Viktor Yanukovych won 48.95 % of votes whereas Yulia Tymoshenko had won 45.47 % of votes, thus declaring Viktor Yanukovych as the elected President of Ukraine.

However, this election could also be observed as linguistic division in Ukraine. Viktor Yanukovych got majority of votes from his native Russian speaking people and Eastern side of the country whereas Yulia Tymoshenko got her majority of votes from Ukrainian speakers and Western side of the country.

Yulia Tymoshenko

In November 2013, European Union implemented an agreement to Ukraine for joining the Union, so that it can have economic and political association between the members of European Union.

In result of that, on 13 November 2013, Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych rejected the agreement of joining European Union and to continue its bilateral relationship with Russia.

Seats won by Tymoshenko (yellow) and Yanukovych ( blue) in 2010 Presidential Elections

Dependency on Russia

Ukraine is mostly dependent on Russia for its economy and has got good political relationship between them i.e. why, President Viktor Yanukovych refused to sign on the agreement to join the European Union.

The rejection by the President ignited a massive protest in capital city, Kiev because the people living in western side of the country wanted to join with European Union for economic dependency whereas Russian speakers wanted to continue its economic relationship with Russia.

Ukrainian speakers living in western side started to protest, in turn, precipitated a revolution that led to Yanukovych’s ousting. Yanukovych tried to put down the protest violently by ordering their army to take down the control on protesters. It led to mass killing of innocent people and several others were injured. Russia backed Yanukovych in crisis, while the US and Europe supported the protesters.

Since then, several big things have happened such as Russian people were forced by the local Ukrainian people to leave the western side of country. In February, anti-government protests shaken the government and Yanukovych fled the country.

The first presidential election was held after the ousting of President Yanukovych, on 25 May, which resulted in the election of Petro Poroshenko as president of Ukraine.

Crimea Annexation by Russia in 2014

In the Donbass region, only 20% of polling stations were open due to threats of violence by pro-Russian separatist insurgents. Russia, trying to salvage its lost influence in Ukraine, invaded and annexed Crimea the next month.

In April, pro-Russia separatist rebels began seizing territory in eastern Ukraine including Donetsk, Luhansk, Kharkiv, and Odessa. These pro-Russian rebels usually worn Russian Army uniform without their insignia and many times Russia has denied that it is their army.


Public protesting in Eastern part of Ukraine supported by Russia (in background Russian flag)

The rebels shot down Malaysian Airlines flight 17 on July 17, killing 298 people, probably accidentally. Fighting between the rebels and the Ukrainian military intensified, the rebels started losing, and, in August, the Russian army overtly invaded eastern Ukraine to support the rebels. This has all brought the relationship between Russia and the West to its lowest point since the Cold War. Sanctions are pushing the Russian economy to the brink of recession, and more than 2,500 Ukrainians have been killed.

Ukraine cities and Crimea region

Crimea is considered by most of the world to be a region of Ukraine that’s under hostile Russian occupation. Russia considers it a rightful and historical region of Russia that it helped to liberate in March. Geographically, it is a peninsula in the Black Sea with a location so strategically important that it has been fought over for centuries.

From Ukraine’s 1991 independence up through February 2014, it was a Ukrainian region that had special autonomy and large Russian military bases. Crimea spent a very long time before 1991 as part of the Soviet Union and the Russian Empire, and most of its citizens are Russians themselves.

Some Crimean’s held rallies to show support for the ousted president and, in some cases, to call to secede from Ukraine and re-join Russia. The bands of gunmen grew until it became obvious they were Russian military forces, who forcefully but bloodlessly brought the entire peninsula under military occupation.


Pro-Russian waiving Russian flag on Ukraine’s Government Building

On March 16, Crimean’s voted for their region to become a part of Russia. Most of the world sees Crimea’s secession vote as illegitimate for a few reasons: it was held under hostile Russian military occupation with no international monitoring and many reports of intimidation; it was pushed through with only a couple of weeks’ warning, and it was illegal under Ukrainian law. Still, legitimate or not, Crimea has effectively become part of Russia. The European Union, NATO and USA imposed economic sanctions on Russia to punish Moscow for this, but there is no sign that Crimea will be returned to Ukraine.

Economy after Crimea 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 shrinked by 8% during the year 2014 because 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.

Russian flag on Ukrainian Naval Ship

The war in Donbass caused a coal shortage in Ukraine, as the Donbass region had been the chief source of coal for power stations across the country. Furthermore, Zaporizhia 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.

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