The end of WWI brought the end of the Russian Empire and the beginning of a bloody civil war.

A Brief History of Ukraine And The Relationship With Their Russian Neighbours

It left over 1.5 million people dead and hundreds of thousands homeless in the former Russian Empire territory.

Ukraine was a founding member of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in December 1922.

Under Russian collectivization, millions starved to death in a famine known as The Holodomor.

The Communist leadership saw starvation as a tool to force peasants into collective farms.

In 2010, Kyiv Courts found Stalin and the Soviet Communist Party posthumously guilty of genocide during the Holodomor.

German armies invaded the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941, initiating nearly four years of total war.

Kyiv was acclaimed as a “Hero City”, because of its fierce resistance.

An estimated 6 million Ukrainians including one and a half – million Jews, were killed in the war.

More than 600,000 soldiers, one-quarter of the Soviet Western Front, were killed or taken captive.

More than 700 cities and towns and 28,000 villages were also destroyed.

A further famine in 1946 -1947 resulted in tens of thousands of deaths.

On 21 January 1990, over 300,000 Ukrainians organized a human chain for Ukrainian independence from the USSR.

In October 1990, there were protests in Kyiv called the Revolution on Granite.

The protestors wanted to prevent Ukraine from signing a new union treaty of the USSR.

On 16 July 1990, Ukraine adopted a Declaration of State Sovereignty, establishing the priority of Ukrainian law over Soviet law.

More than 90% of the electorate expressed their support for the Act of Independence.

They held their first presidential elections on December 1, 1991, and Leonid Kravchuk became the first President of Ukraine.

On 21 December, the leaders of Belarus, Russia and Ukraine formally dissolved the Soviet Union and the Soviet flag was lowered over the Kremlin.

A Brief History of Ukraine And The Relationship With Their Russian Neighbours

Their second President, Leonid Kuchma, turned Ukraine into a semi-presidential republic and pursued full nuclear disarmament, giving up the third-largest nuclear weapons stockpile in the world.

In 2004, Viktor Yanukovych was declared the winner of the presidential elections, largely agreed to have been rigged.

There was a public outcry in support of the opposition candidate, Viktor Yushchenko, who challenged the outcome.

Yushchenko suddenly became gravely ill and was found to have been poisoned by TCDD dioxin.

It was strongly suspected that Russia was responsible for his poisoning. Yushchenko was later elected President in the resulting election.

Russia continued to support anti-government agencies within Ukraine and briefly stopped all gas supplies to Ukraine in 2006 and again in 2009.

In 2010, Yanukovych was re-elected and chose to establish closer ties with the Russian Federation.

This went against the popular will for membership of the European Union and protests began in Euromaidan Square, calling for the resignation of President Yanukovych and his government.

A Brief History of Ukraine And The Relationship With Their Russian Neighbours

There were violent clashes between protestors and police leaving 98 dead, 100 missing and approximately 15,000 injured Parliament forced Yanukovych’s resignation and called an election for May.

Petro Poroshenko won on a pro-European Union platform. The ousting of Yanukovych prompted Vladimir Putin to annex Crimea.

Putin claimed that there had been protests in Crimea supporting Yanukovych’s policies as well as Russian separatists fighting in the eastern areas of Donetsk and Luhansk and that Crimeans obviously wanted much closer ties with Russia.

Russia sent troops into Crimea to protect the citizens and installed Sergey Aksyonov as head of the Supreme Council in Crimea.

After taking control of Crimea, Russia held a controversial referendum on 16 March 2014.

The result – that 97% wished to join with Russia – is not recognised as legitimate but this did not stop Crimea declaring independence on 16 March 2014.

In response, the G8 suspended Russia and the UN, US and EU imposed sanctions on Russia.

In February 2015, a ceasefire was negotiated with the separatist troops in Donetsk and Luhansk. The resulting agreements are known as the Minsk Protocol.

On January 1, 2016, Ukraine joined the Free Trade Area with European Union.

A Brief History of Ukraine And The Relationship With Their Russian Neighbours

As of 11 June 2017, Ukrainians have freedom of movement within the Schengen area.

Poloshenko also pushed for membership of NATO as a priority of his government. Although Putin has repeatedly stated that Russia may target its missiles at Ukraine.

If its neighbour joins NATO and accepts the deployment of a US missile defence shield.

In 2019, former actor and comedian, Volodymyr Zelensky became President with a record popular vote and a mandate for EU and NATO membership.

Despite the truce, Russian-backed separatists have continued fighting in Donetsk and Luhansk with OSCE monitors recording more than 1,500 truce violations in one 24 hour period.

In January 2022, Russia announced joint military exercises with Belarus. This has meant approximately 150,000 Russian troops on the Ukraine border.

The Kremlin dismissed U.S warnings of an imminent invasion of Ukraine as “hysteria” and “absurdity”.

Ukraine mobilised their Civil Defence Force and civilians began to prepare for war.

Both the EU and US have tried to broker a diplomatic solution. Russia demanded that NATO deny membership to Ukraine.

President Zelensky addressed the Munich Security conference saying that “Ukraine wants peace”.

The US, UK and EU all said that Russia would face sanctions for any incursion into Ukraine.

A Brief History of Ukraine And The Relationship With Their Russian Neighbours

On Feburary 22, 2022, Vladimir Putin announced that Russia was recognising the independence of Donetsk and Luhansk and still ordered the Russian army to send troops there as “peacekeepers”.

Warning sirens in Donetsk announced the evacuation of women, children and the elderly to Russia.

Putin delivered an address on Defender of the Fatherland Day, in which he praised the battle-readiness of Russia’s military which is now estimated to exceed 190,000 personnel on the Ukrainian border.

“The interests of Russia, the security of our citizens are non-negiotiable for us.”

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