Friday, December 12, 2014

Ukraine/Russia Recap Pt. 1

With 2014 coming to a close, it is important to look back on some of the major security events that made headlines. The global fight against Islamic extremism (particularly in Iraq and Syria) has been a critical focus point for six months, Israel and the Gaza Strip reengaged, but who could forget the conflict in Ukraine?

In response to then-Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych's failure to sign the long awaited economic agreement with the European Union, protests broke out in Kiev at the end of 2013. By February 22, 2014, Yanukovych had fled the country and it appeared Ukraine could finally move forward. Less than a week later, Russian forces entered Crimea. Here are the four most significant events of conflict in 2014.

1. Russia invades Crimea while denying that they are invading Crimea.
Russian troops without insignia (courtesy Twitter account ST Foreign Desk)
Undoubtedly, pictures of the "green uniformed men in Crimea" were the highlight of the Crimean crisis back in March of this year. Without official insignia, early reports claimed these men were local militiamen seeking independence from Ukraine. However, Russia later admitted these men were in fact Russian troops; even though there was substantial evidence proving they were Russian to begin with. The giveaway was the military vehicles used during the invasion; most vehicles had Russian license plates.

2. Lugansk and Donetsk declare independence from Ukraine

After Crimea, many feared Eastern Ukraine as Russia's next invasion point due to troops amassing on the border. However, both Ukrainian territories declared independence via referendum on May 11 and May 12, respectively. Much like Crimea, Lugansk and Donetsk share a large population of ethnic Russians that disagreed with the protest outcome in Kiev. In response to attacks on government buildings by Pro-Russian separatists, Ukraine launched a military campaign into both territories. As of last month, the UN estimates over 4,000 people have died in conflict.

In addition to the ongoing conflict, Russia has continued to deny that it is supplying weapons and vehicles to Lugansk and Donetsk; instead insisting that Pro-Russian separatists captured all of their equipment from former Ukrainian military bases in the region. Again, there are numerous photos and videos that say otherwise.
Photographic evidence of Russian-supplied tanks (courtesy Twitter UK in Ukraine)

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