Ukraine News, The conflict in Ukraine has brought the world’s attention to the nation’s strife-torn east. The ongoing fighting there has left more than 6,000 people dead, injured more than 21,000, and displaced almost a million others. What began as a protest against then-Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych in late 2013 has evolved into a civil war that has displaced millions and claimed the lives of thousands of people on both sides of the conflict. The fighting has also toppled the Ukrainian government, leading the country into an uncertain future. In this guide, we’ll be providing a review of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, what it’s all about, its main factions, its latest developments, and its potential impact on the United States.
What is the Conflict in Ukraine?
The ongoing armed conflict in Ukraine has taken place in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts since early 2014. The conflict is part of a larger geopolitical struggle between Russia and the West, which has also involved military interventions in other countries such as Syria and Iraq. The Ukrainian government, which came to power after the February 2014 removal of former President Yanukovych, accused Russia of orchestrating the unrest in eastern Ukraine and annexed the Crimea region two months later. The war in the east continued unabated after a September 2014 ceasefire. Now, the conflict has evolved into an all-out proxy war as Russia has deployed troops and military equipment to support the separatists. In addition, a US-backed coalition of NATO member states has joined the fighting against the pro-Russian rebels.
The Ukrainian government is currently led by Petro Poroshenko, who was sworn in as president in June 2015. The country is again divided along political lines, with the eastern regions controlled by pro-Russian militias. The Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, which were once part of the Russian empire, broke away from Ukraine following the Soviet collapse in 1991. These territories held referendums in which residents voted overwhelmingly in favor of joining Russia: 97 percent supported the move in the case of the Donetsk region and 95 percent in the case of Luhansk. Poroshenko vowed to reverse the vote, but the process of doing so is fraught with political and military complications.
The Ukrainian government, which came to power after the revolution, accused Russia of orchestrating the unrest and annexed Crimea in response. As fighting has persisted in eastern Ukraine, Russia has continued to supply support to the pro-Russian rebels, including military equipment and personnel.
The War in Donbass
Pro-Russia separatists in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine have been fighting against government troops since April 2014, when separatists occupied key installations in several cities in the region. Russia allegedly provided the rebels with advanced weaponry, including Grad rockets, tanks, and heavy artillery. The fighting in the Donbas has killed more than 10,000 people and displaced nearly two million more. Both the Ukrainian government and the Donbas militias accuse Russia of sending in troops and armor to support the rebels. Moscow has repeatedly denied these accusations.
Ongoing Hostilities in the East
Despite the September ceasefire, fighting in the Donbas region has continued at a high pace. According to the United Nations, more than 1,800 people were killed in the conflict in June, the highest monthly death toll since the start of the fighting. The war in the Donbas has left much of eastern Ukraine in ruins and has severely impacted everyday life for residents in both regions. Many cities and towns have been reduced to rubble and residents complain of frequent power outages, lack of clean water and other essential services, and high unemployment.
The Future of Ukraine
With the conflict in the east showing no signs of abating, the future of Ukraine remains in doubt. The war has severely tested the mettle of Ukraine’s military and political elite, and it has discredited the Kyiv government in the eyes of some Ukrainians. According to a survey conducted in late September, only 19 percent of Ukrainians approve of Poroshenko as president, while 50 percent disapprove. The situation is even worse for the government in the eastern regions, where only 6 percent approve of it and 86 percent disapprove. A large part of the population lives in poverty, and the war has ruined the economy, leaving most people without jobs and with little hope for the future.
The United States’ Role in the Conflict
The United States has played an important role in the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. Washington has directly supplied weapons to the Ukrainian government, supported the training of its military, and deployed a number of military personnel and equipment to the country. The US government has also imposed several rounds of sanctions on Russian individuals and entities for their alleged involvement in the fighting in eastern Ukraine and for meddling in Ukraine’s presidential election, which took place in May. The US has also joined NATO’s military alliance and begun conducting joint military exercises with the country.
The current situation in Ukraine
On 21 May 2014, Ukrainian voters elected Petro Poroshenko as the country’s president. The billionaire candidate, who is currently serving his second term as Ukraine’s president, won with nearly 63% of the vote. The election was the most democratic in Ukraine’s history, with international observers from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) saying the campaign was “moderated and peaceful.” However, the election results did not quell the street protests which followed the controversial voting. Protestors continue to demand a transparent vote count as well as a transparent investigation into allegations of voting fraud and intimidation. The Ukrainian government has filed multiple lawsuits against the leaders of the protest movement, but the movement has continued to grow. In January 2017, the Euromaidan movement reorganized itself as a political party, Solidarity, and in April 2017, the party announced its intention to run in the 2019 Ukrainian presidential elections.
Ukraine is an emerging market with a population of approximately 46 million people. It has been an independent country since the 1991 dissolution of the Soviet Union.
Ukraine’s political instability has been a major hindrance to its economic development and the country is struggling to make ends meet. The country’s current political and economic situation is a result of a number of factors including its post-Soviet history, the global financial crisis, and the country’s dependence on Russia.
Ukraine’s GDP per capita (PPP) is $5,700. The country’s GDP grew by 1.6% in 2017, following a growth rate of 1.5% in 2016.
How did we get here?
The country has been mired in a political crisis in recent months as the majority of separatist referendums and the 2014 presidential election have thrown the country into turmoil.
After four years of conflict in eastern Ukraine, the future of the country remains uncertain. Its separatist territories remain under de facto Russian occupation and its government is deeply unpopular.