Ukraine was 2014’s favourite topic of the year. A string of Eastern-European turmoil that had not been witnessed in the world stage since the end of the Soviet Union’s hegemony after the Cold War. However, after constantly making the headlines due to its volatility across the region, its appeal began to drop gradually as so often happens with stories of this recurrent, persistent nature. What has changed since the revolution at the end of 2013? How did it evolve into where it stands today? The matter affects Europe more than one could think of, it is time we brought the reader up to date. We cast our minds back on how it started. In the larger objective picture, we see a battle between the two large Eurasian hegemons having been carried out in this country at the crossroads of the West and the East. The pressure mounted two Decembers ago, as former president Viktor Yanukovych backed down from much anticipated reforms at a European Union Summit in Lithuania, reforms that were a catalyst for the conciliation of much tighter relations between the Ukrainians and the West. This left the EU stunned, the Kremlin smiling and Kiev furious. Furious enough to initiate a revolution that was to yield as a result the ousting of Yanukovych. The Euromaidan as it was called, was the lighting ceremony to what has become today a geopolitical and economic battle between the West, Ukraine and Russia.
Mutual condemnations on the acquisition of power would follow defying acts of conquest, which ended in the annexation of the Crimean peninsula after claiming its majority of Russian speakers did not recognise the new Pro-European government. The take-over would see the international community outraged and would inaugurate the start of the war between pro-West and pro-Russian forces. So what is the situation today? Some might have all but forgotten about the tensions in the nation, as tends to happen when unrest becomes standardised, but it is important that we keep watchful of the developments in the country, especially if we structure the analysis of what Ukraine means both to Europe and to the Russian Federation.
At the centre of it is the trading points between of natural resources, which flow from Ukraine to the rest of Europe. Special attention must be directed to the Donbass region and its cities of Luhansk and Donetsk, the latter famous for one of the largest mining industries in Europe. This region is key in the ebbs and flows of energy to the rest of Ukraine and the EU.
It has been controlled by pro-Russian militia since April, who have self-proclaimed into the Luhansk People’s Republic and the Donetsk People’s Republic respectively. Due to host a referendum of independence this coming November, it seems ever so likely that the hub of coal mining will vow to permanently segregate from Ukraine – This would not sit nicely with Prime Minister Petro Poroshenko, his government or the EU. On the other side, we have Ukraine’s romance with NATO, which Pro-Russian Yanukovych kept avoiding in the past – This is understandable, as Ukraine has a major territorial significance between the United States and The Russian federation. Having NATO, an organism a third of which is composed by the Americans, knocking on Vladimir Putin’s door would signify a security concern for the calculating leader. In an effort to appease the fighting that the Ukrainian and rebel forces had been embroiled in, the international community called for a negotiation of matters in Belarus, at the Minsk Protocol in January.
Dialogue was ongoing between Belarussian, Ukrainian, German, French and Russian leaders, but co-operation between the sides seemed unfruitful and culminated with the breakdown of constructive talks. The second attempt at the Minsk II saw a re-emerging round of efforts to reduce the violence, which saw clearer outcomes after the leaders of the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic were invited to attend too.
Out of it came the implementation of the current ceasefire, which holds the peace at the front up to this date. The tension however, is thick in the air and only future constructive developments will bring us a clear image of what the next few years hold for Ukraine’s political panorama.