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Ukraine is in crisis. Protests that initially began in November 2013 in opposition to President Viktor Yanukovych’s decision to turn his back on an Associate Agreement with the European Union, led to the February 2014 collapse of the country’s government and March 2014 military invasion by Russia of the Crimean peninsula.
21 November 2013: President Yanukovych announces Ukraine will not sign an Association Agreement with the European Union (EU), leading to small protests centred on Independence Square in Kiev.
Late November – Early December: Protests grow, with as many as 800,000 people on the streets of Kiev.
17 December: President Yanukovych agrees to a deal with Russia whereby Russia buys $15 billion of Ukrainian debt and reduces the price of its gas supplies by about a third.
16 January 2014: Ukrainian parliament passes a law restricting the right of citizens to protest.
22 January: Two protesters are killed during clashes with police in Kiev. Protests spread throughout Ukraine with protestors occupying public buildings in western Ukraine.
28 January: As pressure mounts, parliament annuls the ‘protest law’ and President Yanukovych accepts the resignation of his Prime Minister and entire cabinet.
29 January: Parliament passes an amnesty law against all those arrested in protests if protesters leave public buildings – rejected by the opposition.
17 February: Parliament’s amnesty for protestors goes into effect. Protestors abandon Kiev’s city hall, which had been occupied since 1 December, as well as public buildings in western Ukraine.
19-20 February: Clashes erupt in Kiev; at least 88 people are killed. Three EU foreign ministers – from France, Germany and Poland – fly to Kiev to broker a peace deal; Russia sends an envoy.
21 February: President Yanukovych signs a deal with three opposition leaders, brokered by the EU foreign ministers. The deal states that a government of ‘national unity’ would be formed with constitutional changes handing powers back to parliament and early presidential elections, to be held by December. Violence continues.
22 February: Protesters take control of presidential administration buildings without resistance. Parliament vote to remove President Yanukovych from power. Opposition leaders call for elections on 25 May; parliament agrees. Former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko freed from jail and travels to Kiev to address protestors.
23-26 February: Parliament names Olexander Turchynov as interim President, and an arrest warrant is issued for Viktor Yanukovych. Rival, pro-Russian, protests erupt in Crimea.
27-28 February: Pro-Russian gunmen seize key buildings in Simferopol, capital of Crimea, as well as appearing at Crimea’s main airports and erecting roadblocks. This gives rise to fears of a Russian military intervention.
1 March: Russian parliament approves President Vladimir Putin’s request to use Russian forces in Ukraine. In Kiev, interim President Turchynov puts his army on full alert. Pro-Russian rallies take place in several Ukrainian cities outside Crimea. President Putin states Russia has the right to protect its interests and those of Russian-speakers in Ukraine.
2 March: Ukraine’s interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk states Russia has declared war. Ukraine’s newly appointed naval chief defects to Russia.
3 March: With the possibility of war apparent, Russia’s stock markets plunge.
4 March: President Putin denies Russia has invaded Crimea, arguing that Russian troops are local self-defence forces.
5 March: Russia agrees to hold talks with the US and key EU states to resolve the crisis.
6 March: Crimean parliament votes to hold a referendum on 16 March on the status of Crimea. EU leaders hold an emergency summit to discuss ways to pressure Russia to de-escalate tension. First Western sanctions on Russia are introduced by US and target Russian officials accused of orchestrating military occupation of Crimea. Monitors from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) are barred from entering Crimea.
7 March: Russia states it will support Crimea if the region votes to leave Ukraine as a result of the referendum on 16 March.
8 March: Pro-Russian militia fired warning shots to prevent OSCE observer mission from entering Crimea.
9 March: President Obama invited Ukrainian PM Arseniy Taysenyuk to the White House. Rival pro-Ukraine and pro-Russia rallies are held across Ukraine, with pro-Russia protestors attacking pro-Ukraine protestors in Sevastopol.
11 March: US Secretary of State John Kerry rejected an offer of talks with President Putin until Moscow engages with US proposals for a negotiated solution to the crisis in Ukraine. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov described the US’ proposals as “not suitable”.
Since 27 February 2014, Russian troops have occupied Crimea, a region that is part of the sovereign territory of Ukraine. In spite of this, Western countries have been slow to take any actions against Russia. Initially, these countries made statements expressing their ‘concern’ over Russia’s actions and their desire that Russia uphold regional peace and stability. Only on 6 March, a week after Russia’s occupation of Crimea began, did the US begin to impose sanctions on Russian officials involved in orchestrating the country’s military intervention.
The absence of decisive and substantive actions by the West against Russia will have long-term negative consequences for world order, mainly because:
The West cannot afford for Ukraine’s future to be determined by an aggressive Russia. We call the international community to undertake decisive actions.
President Putin’s power is based upon Russia’s financial stability. In this sense, the most effective pressure that the West can exert on Russia is financial and economic. Possible policy options include:
A delegation of senior political figures from the European Union and the United States should travel to Russia to deliver these messages. The delegation should include representatives from European countries that have traditionally had close relations with Russia, including Germany and Italy.
With regards to Ukraine, it is important that the West provides support to (i) the interim government in advance of the 25 May 2014 presidential elections, and (ii) the newly elected government beyond the 25 May 2014 elections. It is critical that:
The Henry Jackson Society’s work on the Ukraine crisis is ongoing and includes:
‘Why the West was right to support protestors in Ukraine’, The Huffington Post, 7 March
‘As Ukrainian politicians warn of separatism, could Russia intervene militarily in the crisis?’, CITY A.M., 28 February
‘Russia’s options for intervention in Ukraine’, TIME Ideas, 27 February
‘Ukraine crisis: West is fiddling as Kiev burns’, The International Business Times, 20 February
This strategic briefing was compiled by Dr Andrew Foxall, Director of the Russian Studies Centre at HJS, and Dr Alan Mendoza, Director of The Henry Jackson Society.
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