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Ukraine on Fire

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A divided republic, protests around the country and a controversial Ukrainian Prime Minister. This is the story of the Ukraine.

The current Prime Minister of Ukraine is Viktor Yanukovych and on November 21, Yanukovych signed a deal with Russia which includes $15 billion in loans and cheaper gas supplies while turning down a deal with the EU.

The deal that the EU extended to the Ukraine was a free trade pact with certain countries within the EU. Many people in the Ukraine believe that the EU deal would have been better for the Ukraine in the long-term; however, the current protests aren’t only about the trade deals.

The Ukraine was a part of the former Soviet Union until 1991 when they declared independence from the Soviet Union, but there still remains heavy Russian influence in the country. Along with the unhappiness over the prime minister’s decision, the protests are also over having closer cultural and economic ties to Europe as opposed to Russia.

Initial protests started in Union Square in Kiev, but have spread throughout much of the country of Ukraine. The majority of protests against Yanukovych’s decision are mostly in western Ukraine where most of the people there speak Ukrainian and are ethnically Ukrainian.

However, there are Ukrainians that support Yanukovych’s decision. In eastern Ukraine, where the people speak Russian and are ethnically Russian, there have been protests in support of the prime minister’s decision.

Do to this huge split in the ideology of the protests, Russia has taken action to support its interests in the area. In March 2014, Russia has sent troops into the Ukrainian province of Crimea in order to protect Russian-ideological people from the Ukraine loyalists. This has caused huge criticism in the international community as well as in Ukraine itself.

U.S. President Barack Obama is criticizing Vladimir Putin, Russian Prime Minister, by saying that Russia is “on the wrong side of history.” Putin claims that with all the violence in Ukraine, it is necessary that he send troops into Crimea.

According to the Kremlin, in a conversation with German Prime Minister Angela Merkel, Putin warned her of “the unrelenting threat of violence from ultra nationalist forces (in Ukraine) that endangered the life and legal interests of Russian citizens.”

The Crimean Parliament asked “to enter into the Russian Federation with the rights of a subject of the Russian Federation.”  Moscow approved Crimea’s request, and a referendum was held on March 16.

Internationally, the referendum is viewed as either an unconstitutional split manipulated by Russia or a move consistent with international law upholding the region’s right to govern itself, depending on who you ask. The U.S. and E.U. have responded to what they see as an illegitimate and unconstitutional vote by placing sanctions against certain Russian individuals and a bank.

The outcome for the Ukraine is not clear as the world watches the eastern European interests — and maps — remain in a political limbo.

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Ukraine on Fire