Russia-Ukraine War

News: Recently, Russia recognised two independent republics out of Ukraine (Donetsk and Luhansk – Donbass region), signaling the inevitable war that followed. In the declaration of war, the Russian President described Ukraine with no history or identity, and was entirely and fully created by the former Soviet Union (USSR). Ukraine and Russia share hundreds of years of cultural, linguistic and familial link.

Background:

  • Ukraine is in the east of Europe, and is bound by Russia to its northeast, east, and southeast, and the Black Sea in the south. In the southwest, west, and north, Ukraine shares borders, in the anticlockwise direction, with Moldova, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, and Belarus. It is the largest country in Europe after Russia itself, with an area of 6,03,550 sq km, or about 6% of the continent.
  • In July 2021, Ukraine’s population was estimated at 43.7 million. Of this, 8% was of Ukrainian ethnicity and 17.3% was Russian, and Ukrainian and Russian speakers made up 67.5% and 29.6% of the population respectively.
  • Ukraine is the poorest country in Europe in terms of gross domestic product and gross national income per capita. It has deposits of iron ore and coal, and exports corn, sunflower oil, iron and iron products, and wheat.
  • India is Ukraine’s largest export destination in the Asia Pacific region. The country’s major export to India is sunflower oil, followed by inorganic chemicals, iron and steel, plastics, and chemicals. Ukraine’s major import from India is pharmaceutical products.

Ukraine as a part of Russia:

  • In the 18thcentury, Empress Catherine the Great (1762-96) of Russia absorbed the entire ethnic Ukrainian territory into the Russian Empire. The Tsarist policy of Russification led to the suppression of ethnic identities and languages, including that of the Ukrainians.
  • Within the Russian Empire though, many Ukrainians rose to positions of prosperity and importance, and significant numbers migrated to settle in other parts of Russia.
  • More than 3.5 million Ukrainians fought in World War I on the side of the Russian Empire, but a smaller number fought against the Tsar’s army with the Austro-Hungarians.
  • Ukraine Becoming part of USSR: The World War I led to the end of both the Tsarist and Ottoman empires. As a mainly communist-led Ukrainian national movement emerged, several small Ukrainian states sprang up.
  • Months after the Bolsheviks took power in the October Revolution of 1917, an independent Ukrainian People’s Republic was proclaimed, but a civil war continued between various claimants to power, including Ukrainian factions, anarchists, Tsarists, and Poland. In 1922, Ukraine became part of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). The Soviet Union had its roots in the October Revolution of 1917, when the Bolsheviks, led by Vladimir Lenin, overthrew the Russian Provisional Government that had replaced Tsar Nicholas II.

Collapse of USSR:

  • In 1991, the USSR was dissolved. The Demands for independence had been growing in Ukraine for a couple of years previously, and in 1990, over 300,000 Ukrainians created a human chain in support of freedom.
  • This was followed by the Granite Revolution when students sought to prevent the signing of a new agreement with the USSR.
  • On 24thAugust, 1991, after the failure of the coup to remove President Mikhail Gorbachev and restore the communists to power, the parliament of Ukraine adopted the country’s Act of Independence.
  • Subsequently, Leonid Kravchuk, head of the parliament, was elected Ukraine’s first President.
  • In December 1991, the leaders of Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine formally dissolved the Soviet Union and formed the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). However, Ukraine’s parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, never ratified the accession, so Ukraine was legally never a member of the CIS.

Present context:

  • In 2014, Russia had annexed Crimea from Ukraine following a hastily called referendum, a move that sparked fighting between Russia-backed separatists and government forces in eastern Ukraine.
  • Recently, Ukraine has urged the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)to speed up his country’s membership in the alliance. Russia declared such a move a “red line”, and worried about the consequences of the US-led military alliances expanding right up to its doorstep. This has led to the present war between Russia and Ukraine.