Following weeks of protests and violent clashes between demonstrators and police, Ukraine has seen the downfall of its government and its President Viktor Yanukovich. Now, with Russian troops inside of Ukraine’s borders, the situation is threatening to escalate to a whole new level.
The former leader claims that the movement was fueled by “pro-Fascist forces,” and he blamed the ongoing crisis on the West for “indulging” any protesters who were seeking his resignation. The President has stated that he plans to return to Ukraine once he receives international guarantees of safety, asserting that he was never ousted, “I was forced to leave Ukraine because of imminent threat to my life and family,” he claims.
Since the President’s departure, Russia quickly jumped into action, deploying troops and moving supplies into Crimea, an area in Ukraine which has a large population of citizens, many of which identify themselves as Russian. Putin has said that he sent the military in order to protect the people there, as violent clashes between pro-Russian and pro-Ukraine demonstrators remains ongoing. Since the invasion, Ukraine has begun to mobilize for war, with numerous countries (United States and Canada among them) threatening economic sanctions and acts of war against Russia if there isn’t a retreat of their forces. Putin continues to insist that he has the right to invade.
The strategic value of the region is likely a more central reason than securing the safety of Russia citizens. Possession of Crimea grants Russia greater access to the Azoz sea, and full control over its mouth into the black sea (allowing them greater say in regard to shipping conditions).
Putin secured the permission from his parliament several days ago, allowing him to use military force to “protect Russian citizens in Ukraine”. Putin also told U.S. President Barack Obama he had the right to defend Russian interests and nationals. Following Russia’s move, both Canada and the U.S. have backed out of the G8 meetings which are slated to be hosted by Russia.
Russians troops have already seized Crimea’s military facilities, and have reported issued an ultimatum for the surrender of 2 Ukrainian warships located in Crimea, which has been openly denied. It is estimated that there are currently up to 20,000 Russian soldiers in Crimea. Russian navy ships have also moved in close to the area.
“Anyone who follows the news can see that the escalation isn’t stopping. On the contrary, the threats from the Russian side are only getting louder,” – German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in Brussels.
The nation is largely divided between those who are favorable toward the European Union, those who want sovereignty for Ukraine, and those who ally themselves with Russia. European Union leaders plan to meet in Brussels for an emergency summit on Ukraine this coming Thursday. Numerous European Union governments have agreed to consider “targeted measures” against Russia if Moscow fails to de-escalate the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, an EU diplomat has stated. NATO has also warned that Russia’s annexation of Crimea “threatens peace and security in Europe”.