By Aakriti Gupta
Elm Staff Writer
Ukraine has been experiencing civil unrest for over a year now. As reported by The Guardian, over 1.2 million people have been internally displaced by the conflict, amongst which more than 6,200 have died since Russia’s invasion in April 2014 according to The Washington Post.
The crisis started last year due to the pro-Russian and former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych dismissing talks on signing a historical political and trade agreement with the European Union. After spending months on preparations to sign the deal, EU’s “Eastern Partnership,” Yanukovych suspended talks in November 2014. This agreement would have benefitted Ukraine by generating economic growth, improving political ties, promoting trade and building a platform for modernization and globalization for Ukraine.
So what made Yanukovych change his mind? The most prominent reason was Russia’s opposition to this agreement. Vladimir Putin promised a $15 billion investment in Ukrainian government securities along with cutting back prices of Russian gas imports by about one-third, rather than witnessing a Ukraine-EU union. A more controversial reason was the EU’s demand to free former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who had been charged guilty of abuse of office in a Russian gas deal and imprisoned. Yanukovych’s decision was more motivated by the political differences with Tymoshenko and a pre-existing close relation with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Yanukovych’s decision outraged many Ukrainians who took to the streets to bring back the EU deal and eventually a change in the government’s overall structure. As a result, Yanukovych was forced to leave office and flee to Russia while new president Petro Poroshenko took over. Poroshenko’s support of the EU agreement caused the present series of riots and demonstrations in East Ukraine. A large faction of ethnic Russians native to East Ukraine have contributed to the ongoing civil war by defying the Ukraine-EU agreement. Even after President Poroshenko’s numerous measures like ‘March on Moscow’ and meeting in the Chancellery in Berlin with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande, the civil war could not be dismissed. According to The Kyiv Post, Putin has been suspected of sending weapons to East Ukraine to support demonstrators in the civil war along with playing a huge role in the annexation of Crimea. The entire situation puts Putin in a negative position, where countries and international organizations like the US and the EU are highly concerned for Ukraine’s welfare.
I would not say that Putin is wrong in his movement to gain political control of regions with a population of primarily ethnic Russians. The procedure adopted is morally incorrect, especially where every one of his moves and strategies is in such high scrutiny by the media and other countries. In my opinion, rather than focusing on occupying geographic territory, he aims to incorporate regions with a majority population of ethnic Russians like East Ukraine and Crimea as a part of Russia. Being primarily Russian, the citizens of Crimea and East Ukraine would naturally want to be a part of the country that they originally belonged to with the same culture, caste, and language. Though this entire plan of action has received criticism from different countries across the globe, very similar situations occurred in India and Pakistan to claim Kashmir, and the United Kingdom and Scotland during the proposition of the Referendum. In both cases, a particular state with a mixed ethnic population experienced a movement where the majority ethnic group wanted to form their own state or join another state. In the United Kingdom, Scotland wanted to be recognized as an independent country, while in the case of Kashmir, due to the partition of India and Pakistan during independence in 1947, a great number of Pakistanis were left behind in Kashmir which became a part of India. From my lesson in a World Politics class, I recall that after a thorough analysis of a situation from different angles, we realize that the outcome is grey.