The developing situation in Eastern Ukraine is far more worrying that the annexation of Crimea. Since my last post towards the end of February, the Crimean peninsula has officially become part of Russia again. Despite the denial of the international community in recognising this, people in the region voted overwhelmingly to detach themselves from the Ukraine in favour of following Mr Putin. The West was quick to dispel the vote as illegal, but the question of the vote breaking international law seems to have gone unanswered. Up until this point, I found it hard not to side with Putin over the hypocrisy that Western leaders were showing once again. Interventions in Syria and earlier in Iraq and Afghanistan have proved somewhat embarrassing and imperialistic for the West, but the latest developments in Ukraine have caused me to question my stance. The pro-Russian thugs that have taken over state buildings in Eastern cities have been issued with an ultimatum by the Ukrainian government. Meanwhile, Putin has warned ministers in Kiev that they face civil war should they decide to use force rid the activists from government buildings in Luhansk, Donetsk and Kharkiv. If Putin was looking for a pretext to invade Eastern Ukraine, in his eyes he now certainly has it.
It is still too early to tell what the eventual outcome of the protests in Ukraine will be. Despite demonstrations becoming increasingly protracted, President Viktor Yanukovych remains in support of his decision to withdraw from a planned agreement that would see the Ukraine become part of the European Union. It is clear that the people are against his decision. Being integrated into the EU would see numerous economic benefits along with looser movement in and out of the country; free trade with Europe open up unprecedented opportunities, but the President has turned this down in favour of keeping closer links with Russia. Admittedly Russia is the largest market for Ukrainian exports, but the EU market is undeniably crucial for the growth of Ukraine both economically and politically amongst the international community. President Yanukovych’s pro-Russia stance is well documented, but the Ukrainian people see the need for closer ties to Western Europe and achieving this would be a significant step in their development; staying away from the EU under pressure from Moscow is a frankly regressive direction that is reminiscent of Cold War politics.