Issues affecting Ukraine hit close to home for me, as I lived in the eastern city of Donetsk for 5 years. Seeing the region torn apart is devastating. I’ve written a lot about the Euromaidan protests that became the 2014 Ukrainian Revolution, the subsequent occupation and annexation of Crimea, and the continuing war in the East. These are all my posts on the country so far.
Protests in Kyiv
Protests in Ukraine – A fight for the future (January 26, 2014)
When I first wrote about these protests back in January, revolution seemed a very unlikely prospect. But even then there were clear signs that the Euromaidan was starting to pull the country apart, and that there would be no easy solutions.
Ukraine – From protests to revolution (February 26, 2014)
In late February Yanukovich caused the situation to degenerate into a revolution. By sending in riot police to clear the Maidan square and ordering snipers to fire on protesters, he completely isolated his government, and was forced into a compromise. He then fled the capital, allowing the opposition to take over and remove him as President, leaving the West as the apparent victors, and Russia losing out. At the time I wrote that “Any reports of Russia considering a military intervention to ‘protect’ the Crimea or the East are highly unlikely though. This would destroy the relationship with the US and EU, and isolate Russia completely, as well as risking a more widespread war.” Like nearly everyone else, I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Invasion and annexation in Crimea
The Russian invasion of Crimea – What is going on? (March 2, 2014)
Within a few days Putin had proved the experts wrong, and ruined all the Sochi goodwill, by sending Russian troops into Crimea. Though it started with unidentified armed men taking control of the airports and parliament, it quickly became clear that Russian Spetznaz and other forces were involved. By time the world could react, the occupation of Crimea was a fact.
The Russian invasion of Crimea – Russian reasoning (March 5, 2014)
After the invasion the propaganda war began, with Putin declaring that no Russian forces were involved (something that was only admitted recently) and at the same time that action was necessary to protect Russian minorities in Ukraine. While Russia has genuinely strong geopolitical interests in the region and many of the statements by the US were very hypocritical, in the end this shouldn’t be about a battle between East and West, but about the fate of the country of Ukraine. And as we saw in this post, Putin’s justifications for taking action in Crimea were very shaky.
The Tatars – Crimea’s dark Soviet past (March 12, 2014)
This week I looked at one group of Crimeans who are dreading a return to the Russian Federation – the Crimean Tatars. A unique minority with a terrible history under the Soviet Union, Ukraine’s loss of control over Crimean has plunged them into uncertainty, and made them vulnerable to groups such as local Cossacks. They’re under a lot of pressure to vote “Yes” to Russia in the referendum.
“Crimea is coming home” – Russia changes the game (March 19, 2014)
When Russia officially annexed Crimea, they changed the game of international politics. This week I had the opportunity to attend a lecture by the US ambassador to NATO, who had some reflections on this change and Russia’s plans.
Ukrainian government – Is it really ‘fascist’? (April 2, 2014)
Finally a look at an accusation that has been thrown against the Euromaidan protesters since the beginning – that they are fascists and even anti-Semites. How does this hold up to reality?
War in Eastern Ukraine
The Donetsk Republic? – Protests in Eastern Ukraine (April 9, 2014)
Protests are popping up across Eastern Ukraine, as activists take over government buildings. It’s worth taking a look at how the Russian media is spinning this – giving insight into both the Russian view of things and the reality on the ground.
“Anti-terrorist operation – Kyiv gets tough” (April 16, 2014)
The Ukrainian government finally decided to move the military into Eastern Ukraine, after days of violent takeover of government buildings. These were no peaceful occupations – armed men attacked police stations throughout Donetsk Oblast, and in one case a mob almost killed the local police chief.
“A deal in Donetsk – Too good to be true?” (April 20, 2014)
When Russia and Ukraine signed up to a deal in Geneva, at first glance it seemed to be an end to the crisis. But what was going on behind the scenes that led the complete failure of the Geneva agreement?
Eastern Ukraine – A region of violence and fear (April 30, 2014)
A closer look at the violence and oppression in the Donetsk People’s Republic – violence that has only gotten worse as time goes on.
Another Ukrainian tragedy – Flames in Odessa (May 4, 2014)
On the worse day of violence since February, dozens of pro-Russians died in a fire in the Southern city of Odessa. The deaths fueled division and hatred in the cities, as it appeared the pro-Russian building had been deliberately set on fire by Ukrainians during riots. So how could such a tragedy take place?
Donetsk referendum – Votes and violence (May 11, 2014)
While the separatists held their referedum under the most bizarre of circumstances, the clashes that broke out in Mariupol showed just how hard it will be to regain control of the East, and how easily the hatred can build.
Ukraine – Fighting to the death for the DPR (May 28, 2014)
In the heaviest fighting yet between the army and the separatists, the pro-Russians suffered a heavy blow, losing dozens of men. The fighting took place against the backdrop of rising fear, repression and violence in this devastated city.
Violence grinding on – Ukraine update (June 25, 2014)
At this point the fighting had been at a low pitch for months, punctuated by the occasional big incident. Just a few weeks later though, the Ukrainian army would step up its efforts – with initial success.
Ukrainian success – Fall of Sloviansk (July 6, 2014)
Looking back, this was one of the high points of Ukraine’s campaign in the East. With the fall of Sloviansk, the separatists lost one of their strongholds, and it looked like the Ukrainians had the the potential to carry on to Donetsk and Luhansk.
Tragedy above Ukraine – 10 points about MH17 (July 18, 2014)
Written late at night after hearing the news at a party, I was in shock along with the rest of the Netherlands. This event like no other showed the moral bankruptcy of the separatists, shooting down a plane without having any idea what it was. Tragically though, my prediction that Russia would be forced to take a step back from its support from the rebels was completely wrong.
War in Eastern Ukraine – Russia rolls up its sleeves (August 31, 2014)
Through August the Ukrainian army was hammered by Russian forces crossing the border, as well as rearmed rebels. Russian involvement was more open than ever before, and it became clear that Ukraine would not be allowed to win the war by force.
Peace for our time – Putin twisting arms (September 7, 2014)
This week a ceasefire was reached that brought the violence to a steady trickle until 2015. It wasn’t a ceasefire Ukraine chose though – Putin twisted some arms.
Why I’m starting to hope Ukraine’s ceasefire falls apart (October 1, 2014)
After seeing a photo of Donetsk’s destroyed airport, it suddenly hit me how terrible the fate of the Donbass region could be without true peace. This week I got into about frozen conflicts, and how the people of the region might eventually benefit from the conflict restarting – as strange as that may seem.
Rockets fall on Mariupol (January 25, 2015)
Almost exactly a year after my first post on Ukraine, the conflict was starting again. After violence started up again, leading to the fall of Donetsk Airport, the separatists fired a barrage of rockets at the peaceful town of Mariupol. This week I also took the opportunity to explain why I care quite so much about what happens to the region.
Peace in Ukraine – Better luck this time? (February 15, 2015)
Five months after the last ceasefire deal, Putin in Poroshenko were back in Minsk for another try. So what does this peace deal mean for the conflict? And what chance does it have of succeeding?