Russian forces storm Ukrainian city
By Xavier Thompson
Since November 2013 more than 100,000 Ukrainian citizens have protested against their government’s refusal to sign an agreement with the European Union.
The EU establishes a common market among its member countries. If the treaty is signed, Ukrainians would be allowed a free flow of goods and people with other countries.
Ukraine’s capital city, Kiev, saw huge crowds assembled in the town square calling for a “revolution” against President Viktor Yanukovych. Others clashed with riot police and stormed the city mayor’s office, saying it would serve as an operational protest headquarters until Yanukovych stepped down.
“We want Europe and freedom,” said protester Mykola Sapronov, age 62. “The leaders must resign.”
More than 27 protesters claimed full control of the city following the signing of a Western-brokered peace deal aimed at ending the nation’s three-month political crisis. According to the Associated Press, the nation’s embattled president reportedly fled the capital for his support base in Ukraine’s Russia-leaning east. Nearly 100 people have been killed since December, including 13 policemen. Additionally, more than 1,100 people have been injured.
Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin continues to make headlines following the Sochi Olympics. Putin said Yanukovych was illegally impeached and should be regarded as Ukraine’s legitimate president. The Crimean Peninsula, south of the Ukraine and west of Russia, is a land mass on the northern coast of the Black Sea and is home to Russia’s only warm water port and other military installations, making Crimea a great financial resource for Russia.
On March 1, armed men, described as Russian troops, took control of key airports and a communications center in Crimea. Ukraine has accused Russia of a “military invasion and occupation,” a claim that brought an alarming new dimension to the crisis and raised fears that Moscow is moving to take over the strategic peninsula where Russia’s Black Sea Fleet is based at Sevastopol.
Ukraine’s population is divided between loyalty to Russia or Europe. Much of western Ukraine wants closer ties with the European Union while the eastern and southern regions look to Russia for support.
On March 13 President Barack Obama declared that a referendum on the future of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula would violate international law. The United States also moved to impose visa restrictions and financial sanctions on Russians and Ukrainians due to the actions Moscow already has taken within Crimea. Speaking from the White House, Obama said any decisions on the future of Crimea must include the country’s new government.
Vladimir Putin, defying Ukrainian protests and Western sanctions, signed a treaty on March 18 annexing Crimea as part of Russia but said he did not plan to seize any other regions of Ukraine. Crimea’s disputed referendum vote showed the overwhelming will of the people to be reunited with Russia, because Crimea is mainly Russian-speaking, according to the Huffington Post.
Russia’s invasion of the Crimean Peninsula could have a major impact on U.S. foreign policy regarding such issues as Iran’s nuclear program, Syria’s civil war, and Afghanistan. “We need to be much more active much more quickly or we are going to be faced with not just Russia incorporating Crimea, but Russia, Iran, Hezbollah, and Assad running over the vast bulk of the population and creating a victory right in the middle of a region that is full of our allies. That is troubling,” former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq and Turkey James Jeffrey said, at The Washington Institute.
Disturbances in a global economy can result in unwanted effects in America, from Russian gas export prices to fluctuations in currency. Only time will tell the full effect of Vladimir Putin’s action and how other countries around the world will respond.