Russia and Ukraine: Putin the crime in Crimea

Will Berger, Staff Writer

Unless you’ve only been binge watching Schreiber Slam videos for the last month, you might have noticed that there is something going on in Ukraine, and people have opinions about it. Heck, even the car I regularly park behind on Bogart has been sporting a “Help Ukraine” bumper sticker, and if I’ve learned anything from bumper stickers, it means that there is something worth caring about.

But what exactly is going on in that country that’s kind of sort of near Russia-ish, and why does the news media keep displaying pictures of an old, shirtless, Bond villian, calling him the “President of Russia?” Well, I have all of the answers for you.

Let’s flashback to Dec. 1991, after the Soviet Union  broke up. Ukraine had a nationwide referendum and 90% of people, including the majority of those living in the Crimean peninsula, voted for independence from Russia.

But Ukraine remained much more closely aligned with Russia than many other former Soviet Republics did, such as Estonia, which is now in the European Union.

In 2004, there was an election in which there were widespread reports of vote rigging, but the Russian-friendly Victor Yanukovych was elected.

The opposition leader, Victor Yushchenko, led massive street protests in Kiev that became known as the Orange Revolution.

Neither man did much to help the stereotype that Victor is a very common name in countries that were previously a part of the Soviet Union.

Anyway, Yushchenko was disfigured and almost died as a result of mysterious poisoning.

As a sidenote, the number of mysterious poisonings in Russia and Eastern Europe has absolutely skyrocketed since Putin came to power in Russia, which I’m sure is a coincidence.

The Orange Revolution protests led to a second election, in which the poisoned opposition leader Yushchenko won and from that point on, everything would be made of puppies and freedom and rainbows and friendliness toward Europe forever, except no.

Despite being an economist, Yushchenko was not very good at running the Ukrainian economy and his friendliness toward Europe annoyed Russia, which cut off gas supplies briefly to Ukraine in 2006.

By 2010, Ukraine was being led by the Europe-friendly and somewhat corrupt Yulia Tymoshenko, but then as always, an election screwed everything up.

The aforementioned Russian-friendly Victor Yanukovych won the next presidential election.

In Nov. 2013, Yanukovych announced that Ukraine would abandon an agreement to strengthen ties with the EU, and would instead become a closer ally of Russia.

 

In response, protests began in Kiev’s Independence Square. They grew until Feb. 20, when dozens of protesters were killed by military and police, and the next day, Yanukovych disappeared from Kiev.

The protesters won and they installed a new temporary government to prepare for new elections, but then Putin, in all his shirtless glory, marched into the Crimean peninsula to protect ethnic Russians and Russian interests in Ukraine.

So here’s one account of recent events: an unpopular and ineffective but democratically elected politician was removed from power by a mob of protesters, and the new parliament wants to become part of the EU.

However, it might bring NATO missiles to Russia’s border and that would be unacceptable to Russia.

But here’s another: a tyrannical leader, who ordered the murder of peaceful protesters, was chased from power and replaced by a government that will transition Ukraine toward free and fair elections, and Russia responded to that by invading Ukraine.

To sum it up in a metaphor, Ukraine is like Bella from Twilight (a book series I have never read).

Some people want Bella to be with Jacob, aka Europe, and others want her to be with her first love, Edward, aka Russia.

Either way, the story is going to end up being way too long and complicated, and someone’s feelings are going to be hurt.