A Last Chance For Peace In Ukraine

Feb 8, 2015 By Deepa Gopal
Deepa Gopal's picture

When the Soviet Union broke up in 1990, many new countries emerged. Among them Ukraine, which declared independence in August 1991. But now, it appears Russia wants Ukraine back in its fold. 

Russia annexed Crimea in March of 2014 – a region of Ukraine that is largely pro-Russian (we had written earlier). Soon after, the unrest spread to eastern Ukraine with separatist rebels fighting against Ukraine’s Government, taking over cities and declaring themselves independent.

These rebels have been receiving monetary and weapons support from Russia as well as Russian fighters have been caught fighting alongside Ukrainian separatists.

Western countries like Europe and the U.S have imposed sanctions on Russia. But Russian leader, Vladimir Putin appears to be unfazed. Now, as the U.S mulls sending weapons to Ukraine to help them fight the conflict, European leaders are making one last attempt at peace.

A Meeting In Minsk

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been leading the effort to broker peace between Ukraine and Russia. Along with French President François Hollande, she plans to meet Russian and Ukrainian leaders in Minsk, the capital of Belarus on Wednesday.

Germany believes that arming Ukraine will worsen the conflict. It would encourage Russia to send in more weapons, causing more loss of life in an already long conflict.

The aim of the meeting is to revive talks from last September where both sides had agreed to a ceasefire, but neither honored it. The rebels have gained more territory since. Vladimir Putin, however, has said the meeting would happen only if some of the key points that Russia wants are accepted. If the meeting does not happen or talks fail, it would mean more sanctions on Russia.

A Brief History Of Ukraine

Ukraine is located at the crossroads of capitalist Europe and communist Russia. Its strategic location makes it important to both Russia and Europe. Because of its fertile lands and bountiful agriculture, Ukraine is a major supplier of food to the region and is often referred to as the ‘bread basket’ of Europe.

In centuries past, the country was home to nomadic tribes like the Goths and Cimmerians. During the peak of their empires, Greece and Rome had even set up their cities in Ukraine.

In the 10th century, Kievan Rus became a prominent city-state and in the next two centuries, they had established the largest empire in Europe. After a glorious rule, this empire began to crumble and by the 13th century, Kiev was destroyed by Mongol invaders. Since then, Ukraine has been part of other nations – first under Poland and later under Russia. 

With the collapse of the Soviet Union, Ukraine became an independent nation in 1991. However, since independence, the country is caught in a tug-of-war between Russia and the European Union. Ukraine's economy depends on Russian oil that is supplied to Europe through pipelines that run through the country. Russia has periodically threatened to shut off the gas supply to bring pressure on Ukraine's government. 

It remains to be seen if this latest crisis can be resolved without Ukraine being torn apart and losing more of its territory to Russia. 

Courtesy BBC, Time