In November of 2013, Viktor Yanukovich, the then President of the Ukraine, announced the abandonment of a trade agreement with the EU, and that he wanted to seek closer ties with the ex KGB, AK-47 wielding, chest revealing Vladimir Putin. This caused considerable outrage in the Ukraine, especially Kiev, as the western parts of the country are strongly pro-EU and are abhorrent of the Russian regime, a country devastated by the Stalinist purges of the 1930’s. Ukraine was liberated only 23 years ago when the Soviet Union broke up. On December the 1st, 300,000 people gathered in Independence Square in Kiev to protest, and the City Hall was seized. By January the 16th anti-protest laws were introduced which were immediately described as ‘draconian’ as they took away the human right to protest in a similar manner to Tony Blair’s anti-terror laws took away the right to dance around naked in front of your webcam without GCHQ taking photos of you. It was then that people started to die…
On January 22nd Ukrainian police fired upon the crowd with live ammunition. Two died and another followed when he clashed with riot police. Dmytrov Bulatov, an opposition activist was found outside of the city having been imprisoned and tortured for eight days by pro-Russian groups. On the 16th of February it seemed like a ceasefire between the Government and its people was in sight when protesters returned control of city hall in exchange for the release of 234 imprisoned activists. Two days later clashes re-erupted after changes to constitutional reform were stalled. 18 people died and over a hundred were injured. Another two days later and within 48 hours, 88 people had been killed by Government snipers shooting into the crowds.
President Yanukovich then fled the capital after a vote in Parliament determined his removal and the release of his previous political opponent, Yulia Tymoshenko from prison. With the now wavering ties he had with the country now disappearing, Putin started to play. On the 27th armed men seized governmental buildings in Crimea, the Crimean parliament determined May 25th as the date of referendum and the fleeing pro-Russian ex-president Yanukovich was granted refuge in Russia. Simferopol international airport, in Crimea, was then seized along with Sevastopol naval base by further armed men in unmarked combat fatigues, Russia denied that they were theirs. By the 1st of March the Russian Upper House had approved the use of military force in not only Crimea, but in the whole of the sovereign state of Ukraine.
“There can be one assessment of what happened in Kiev and Ukraine as a whole. This was an anti-constitutional takeover and armed seizure of power.” These were words spoken by Putin himself which, do not imply he is having any thoughts of stopping at taking just Crimea, but Ukraine as a whole, if not more.
Within the next week, convoys of hundreds of Russian soldiers marched towards the regional capital of Crimea. The Russian Black Sea Fleet ordered the Ukrainian Navy in Sevastopol to surrender to them, or face a military assault. Putin then stated that “The legitimate president, purely legally, is undoubtedly Yanukovich.”, surprising as that was also Putin’s favourite candidate, and that “We reserve the right to use all available means. And we believe that this is fully legitimate.” when speaking on the issue of ‘protecting’ the people of eastern Ukraine.
The notorious referendum was then held in Crimea, by order of Putin, which contravened many principles of what a referendum actually is. The vote received 96.77% of the vote, apparently, making it one of the most successful referendums ever. There have been some questions over the integrity of this unquestionably truthful referendum, that included the fact that hundreds of Ukrainians, left for security reasons or were kicked out and that the indigenous Tatars suffered widespread intimidation. Furthermore a Russian journalist living in Crimea told them that she was Russian and only lived in Crimea for a very short time, was positively encouraged to vote, even though this was not legal.
After the vote, Russia recognised Crimea as a sovereign state and no longer part of Ukraine.
The crisis, although with less coverage in the news, is not over. Many towns and cities along Ukraine’s eastern border have been seized, Donetsk, Luhansk, Kharkiv and Slavyansk as well as further naval and military bases have been taken by pro-Russian activists who have asked Putin to send military force. The conflict is showing little sign of abating and with Putin’s already expressed views of his contempt for the fall of the Soviet Union, it is unlikely it will do any time soon. We no longer know whether it is just Ukraine on the menu, or whether he would like to try a taste of Finland or Estonia, who have both reported fear in the knowledge that Russia has had extensive military exercises along their borders. And being the superpower that they are, not even America has the balls to come out and tell them where to go. Maybe the Cold War was not over, maybe it was just waiting.
Contributed by Daniel Gibbs