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East vs. West: The Ukrainian crisis

    By Malin Meyer. March 9, 2014 - 12:04 pm

Russia, Putin_washingtonpost

Whether you actively pay attention to the news or not, I doubt Russia’s invasion of Crimea last week and the tensions that have risen between Russia, the U.S., and the European Union (EU) as a result of the invasion has escaped anyone.

Although the media coverage of the Ukraine crisis has all but exploded the last week, the calamity actually began last year.

It started in November 2013, when then President Viktor Yanukovych of Ukraine rejected a trading agreement with the EU. While the Ukraine was split on the issue, thousands of upset people organized demonstrations to protest Yanukovych’s decision to focus on building a closer relationship with Russia over an alliance with the EU.

The demonstrations escalated in February, when Ukrainian riot police and snipers began shooting protesters in Kiev’s Independence Square. Protesters responded with increased intensity and uproar.

On Feb. 22 the Ukrainian Parliament voted to oust Yanukovych and hold new presidential elections. Calling the outcome a coup d’état, Yanukovych later fled to Russia, a move that allowed the Ukraine Parliament to elect an interim-government until presidential election could be held.

Shortly after Yanukovych fled Ukraine, Russian troops were deployed in Crimea, a peninsula off southern Ukraine that is heavily populated by ethnic Russians.

When Russia’s President Vladimir Putin held a press conference on the Ukraine conflict on March 4, he said that Russia’s primary interest is to protect these citizens, as well as Ukraine citizens in general.

Putin has also made it very clear that Russia considers the interim government of Ukraine illegitimate.

Condemning the Ukraine demonstrations, Putin has referred to the protesters as radicals and nationalists and claims accusations that Yanukovych ordered snipers to shoot protesters are false.

On Wednesday (March 5) the U.S., represented by Secretary of State John Kerry, tried to bring together Russia’s and Ukraine’s foreign ministers in an attempt to negotiate a diplomatic meeting.

The meeting, however, which took place in Paris, failed quite miserably as Kerry was unable to get the two ministers together in the same room even though they were both in the same building, according to an article in The New York Times.

Russia’s actions have outraged Ukrainian politicians and citizens, who believe the invasion is an assault on the nation’s territorial sights and sovereignty.

The relationship between Russia and the U.S. is hardly much better, with President Barack Obama announcing that both economic and diplomatic steps will be taken if Russia fails to retreat its troops.

ukraine_protests_washingtonpost

One of these steps could prove to be the cancellation of this year’s G8 (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the U.K., and the U.S.) meeting, scheduled to take place in Sochi this summer.

In a statement issued by the G7 (sans Russia) the group clearly asserts its condemnation of Russia’s actions, which they consider a violation against the sovereignty of Ukraine.

Kerry has even said Russia could be thrown out of the G8 altogether, in addition to penalties such as visa bans and halts in trade.

Many government officials have already announced their boycott of the Sochi Paralympics, including U.S. and U.K officials.

Also happening on Wednesday, NATO announced that it plans to conduct a full review of its partnership with Russia.

According to an Al Jazeera article, “Russia’s actions have consequences,” Anders Fogh Rasmussen, NATO’s secretary general, said in a statement.

The review means that NATO’s joint operation with Russia to destroy chemical weapons from Syria is on hold.

Having previously been accused of approaching the situation too cautiously, NATO’s stance on the Ukrainian crisis is further proof that the situation have arrived at a standstill.

Though some have gone so far as calling the Ukrainian crisis the stepping-stone to another Cold War, it seems the West is still set on solving the issue peacefully and diplomatically.

During a press conference Wednesday morning, Kerry asserted that the U.S. and its allies have every intention of finding a solution to the crisis.

Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, told reporters in Paris that the U.S. and Russia would continue their discussions in the coming days.

I’ll refrain from holding my breath for now.

Photos courtesy of washingtonpost.com.

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