In order to understand the current conflict between Ukraine and Russia, it’s important to look back at the history of tensions between the two countries. After the USSR was dissolved in ,Ukraine and Russia maintained close ties until 2008 when Ukraine petitioned to join NATO.
Before then, there was growing dissatisfaction with Russian influence in Ukrainian politics by the Ukrainian population. In 2004, pro-Russian Prime Minister Victor Yanukoviych’s victory was marred by allegations that the vote was rigged. The public outcry led to the Orange Revolution, a series of peaceful protests throughout Ukraine which challenged Yanukovych’s election win.
During the months of protests, Yanukovych’s opposing candidate, Viktor Yushchenko was poisoned. While no evidence was found Yushchenko believed that Russia was involved in his poisoning. The election result was voided by the Supreme Court of Ukraine, and Yushchenko was voted into office.
Yanukovych ran again for Prime Minister in the 2010 elections and ended up winning the elections.
Relations further deteriorated following Yanukovych’s removal from office following weeks of Euromaidan movement protests. The Euromaidan movement protests began due to Yanukovych’s decision not to sign the European Union-Ukraine Association Agreement. In effect this meant choosing to side with Russia’s economic ties. Volodymyr Zelenskyy was elected the new president of Ukraine shortly thereafter.
Donetsk and Crimea
The Russian speaking population in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine publicly announced loyalty to Yanukovych and Russia. The lead to the 2014 civil unrest east Ukraine and Russian annexation of Crimea. In September 2020, President Zelenskyy approved moving forward and strengthening relations with NATO with the ultimate goal of becoming a full member.
Before the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, Russia launched a series of media attacks on the country. Russian President Vladimir Putin made claims challenging the legitimacy of Ukraine’s statehood. He accusing it of being pro-Nazi. He also accused Ukraine of promoting Russophobia while treating Russian speakers living within its territories as second class citizens.
From March to April 2021, the Russian military had large buildups of military units along the Russo-Ukrainian border while denying any intentions of invading Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Zelenskyy
Another military buildup began in October 2021 until February 2022. On February 22, use of military force outside of Russia was approved by the Federation Council. President Zelenskyy called for conscription of all army reservists as a response, and declared a 30 day state of emergency.
On February 24, 2022, President Putin approved military operations in eastern Ukraine. This action was launched under the guise of protecting the Russian speaking people who reside there. Following his announcement, bombardment of key cities and infrastructure in Ukraine began. President Zelenskyy declared martial law and mobilized all military aged males and capable males. All of these actions escalated tensions between the two countries and led to the current invasion and war in Ukraine.