The Ongoing Issue of Russia and Ukraine

Russia and Ukraine have been in a struggle with each other since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and due to a Russian build up of troops, the tension may be coming to a halt.


Vitaly V. Kuzmin

Russian Internal Troops of the Ministry for Internal Affairs.

By Niklas da Silva Ekberg, Staff Writer

Ukraine, August 24, 1991: crowds of blue and yellow chanting independence, politicians shouting “shame to CPU (Communist Party of Ukraine).” In light of the independence of the Baltic states and the failed coup in Moscow, the Supreme Soviet of the Ukrainian SSR created the Act of Declaration of Independence of Ukraine. A referendum took place on December 1 and over 90 percent of the country voted in favor for Ukrainian independence.

Ukraine’s Independence from the Soviet Union is the cornerstone of the Russian-Ukrainian tensions, with Russia consistently trying to gain Ukraine back into Russian territory. corruption, seizing territory, and political games have been the reality for Ukraine since it’s independence

Despite being forecast with favorable economic conditions, Ukraine experienced a downturn in its economy, losing over 50 percent of its GDP and experiencing 5-digit inflation between 1991 and 1999. The economy began to stabilize with the dawn of the 2000s, but Ukraine remains the second poorest country in Europe.

Ukraine also suffers from extreme political corruption and Russian backed politicians. In 2004, Viktor Yanukovych won the Ukrainian Presidential Elections, in what was later considered a rigged election. His opposition, Viktor Yushchenko, challenged the outcome of the election with his supporters, sparking the Orange Revolution.

Amid the protests, Yushchenko became suddenly ill from TCDD dioxin poisoning, which he suspected Russian involvement in his poisoning. “I have an answer, but I cannot voice it,” Yushchenko said in an interview with BBC.

The protesters in the Orange Revolution were mostly funded by foreign government agencies like the U.S. State Department and USAID. While the U.S. was involved with funding protests, Russia was damaging the image of Yushchenko through the state media and pressuring voters to vote Yanukovych. Russia is also suspected of supporting Carousel voting and “dead souls” voting during the Ukranian elections.

Yushchenko and Yulia Tymoshenko took power as a result of the protests. Yanukovych retook the position of prime minister in 2006 but, after a snap election in 2007, Tymoshenko was back in power. In 2010, Yanukovych took the presidency with 48 percent of the votes.

Russia hadn’t taken a direct role in Ukrainian territory, until the annexation of Crimea. On February 23, 2014, Russian troops and intelligence agents moved to disarm Ukrainian Troops in Crimea. Russia understood the controversy caused from annexing territory from a foreign country, so they held a referendum asking Crimeans if they wished to join the Russian federation. The results were a 97 percent vote in favor of Russian annexation.

What’s new. Isn’t this the reality for eight years? ”

— Volodymyr Zelensky

The legitimacy of the referendum was questioned however, and the UN General Assembly declared the referendum invalid. The territory of Crimea remains disputed to this day.

Around the same time, Russian backed militias rose up in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Both regions are on the Russian border. The militias seized government buildings and held referendums on joining Russian territory or becoming their own republic.

The newly elected president of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, amplified military operations in Donetsk and Luhansk, resulting in over 9000 deaths in armed combat in the region. a ceasefire was organized on February 15, 2015 and remains to this day.

The most recent tensions between Russia and Ukraine are a result of a build of Russian troops on the Ukrainian border. During October of 2021, satellite imagery was released of Russian forces moving heavy military equipment such as armored Vehicles and missiles. By December, Russia had mobilized up to a hundred thousand troops on the Ukrainian border, prompting U.S. Intelligence officials to warn of a Russia invasion of Ukraine.

During the same month, Russia issued a set of demands to Ukraine, including a ban on Ukraine Joining NATO and a reduction of Ukrainian forces. The U.S. and other NATO allies have warned Russia of retaliation if Ukraine is invaded.

Despite NATO’s and the U.S. concerns with Russia, the Ukrainian government seems to be confident that an invasion will not happen, or at least not any time soon. “What’s new. Isn’t this the reality for eight years,” Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine’s current president, said in an address to the nation.

Even the Ukrainian minister of defense, Oleksii Reznikov, doesn’t seem concerned with the Russian build up. “Today, at this very moment, not a single strike group of the Russian armed forces has been established, which attests to the fact that tomorrow they are not going to invade,” Mr. Reznikov said. “That is why I ask you to not spread panic.”

Given that Ukraine has been in conflict with Russia since its existence, Ukrainian officials may interpret the threat different than the U.S. and NATO. Oleksii Danilov, head of Ukrainian National Security, stated in an interview with BBC, “We understand the plans and intentions of Russia; for us crying out from fear is not necessary.”