Understanding the Unrest in Ukraine

by Christopher Scarr

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Over the past 5 years, Ukraine has been in a panic, with Euromaidan in the beginning and the War in Donbass today. With all that’s going on, there’s bound to be some level of confusion over what’s happening. This article’s purpose is to try and clear up some of the fog surrounding this crisis.


On February 25th, a pro-Russian politician named Viktor Yanukovych was elected to be President of Ukraine. Yanukovych slowed Ukraine’s attempts at integration into the European Union in favor of developing more friendly relations with Russia. He went as far as to propose Russian as the second language of Ukraine and imprisoning the opposing political party’s head, Yulia Tymoshenko.

All of these things led to the beginning of Euromaidan, or Euro Square- a series of protests that worked to overthrow Yanukovych and install a pro-European Union president.

Euromaidan began on the 21st of November 2013, when the government suspended signing the Ukraine-European Union Association Agreement in favor of developing closer ties with Russia. Approximately 2,000 people gathered in Ukraine’s capital of Kiev to protest this action. Over the next three months, hundreds of thousands of protesters would converge all over Ukraine to oust Viktor Yanukovych from the presidency. They succeeded and, on February 22 of 2014, Yanukovych accepted the rebel’s demands and fled Kiev for Russia.

Crimean Crisis

On March 1st of 2014, Vladimir Putin, President of Russia, got approval from the Russian parliament to send troops into Ukraine “to protect Russia’s interests.” Just 17 days later, Putin signed a bill to bring the self-proclaimed Crimean Republic into the Russian Federation.

However, this bill is denounced in Western countries, including Ukraine, and so the protests and fighting continued onward. Though the conflict is technically still ongoing (no formal treaty has been signed of yet), it has shifted much more to the east with the War in Donbass.

War in Donbass

The War in Donbass began in 2014 during the heat of the Crimean Crisis. It began in the Donetsk oblast (Russian equivalent of county) of Ukraine with the seizure of the Donetsk RSA building by rebels. Though they only held it from March 1-6, the revolution spread across the rest of the oblast .

On April 6, protesters gathered in the cities of Donetsk and Luhansk to demand a vote on their political status. Afterwards, the protesters stormed and captured two government buildings in both cities. The same day, both held a meeting and, on May 11, declared independence from Ukraine.

Why does it matter?

Many questions may arise about why this is important when we live in the US. There are many concerns that can be brought up.

The USA usually gets involved when its rivals (eg. Russia, China) try to somehow expand their influence. By trying to incorporate Crimea into their country, many officials from the European Union and the United States have imposed sanctions on Russia. The new era of tensions between Russia and Western countries was referred to by Mikhail Gorbachev, Former President of the Soviet Union, as “a new Cold War.”

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