Two former republics of the Soviet Union – Russia and Ukraine – are once again in conflict. Here are some pivotal moments in the years leading up to the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, as well as a brief look at their relationship in the 20th century.
February 2014 — Protesters in Ukraine overthrow President Viktor Yanukovych, who was kind to Russia’s interests. More than 100 people are killed during the revolution in protests centered on the main square in the capital Kiev, often referred to as the Maidan.
The interim government following this pro-Western revolution eventually signs a trade deal with the European Union that is seen as a first step towards joining the bloc.
April 2014 — Russia invades and then annexes the Crimean peninsula. Secessionists in eastern Ukraine, supported by Russia, declare themselves independent, such as the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic, and go to war against Ukraine.
The war of secession continues in the eastern region known as Donbas. Then it spreads to the west. About 13,000 Ukrainian soldiers and civilians eventually die in the conflict. The front lines have hardly shifted for years.
2014 and 2015 — Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany sign a series of ceasefires known as the Minsk Accords. Many consider these chords ambiguous.
April 2019 — A former comedian, Volodymyr Zelensky, is elected president of Ukraine by a large majority with a promise to make peace with Russia and restore Donbas to the country.
2021-2022 – President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia is trying to prevent Ukraine from drifting towards the United States and its allies. Mr Putin demands “security guarantees”, including an assurance from NATO that Ukraine will never join the group and that the alliance will withdraw troops stationed in countries that joined after 1997.
Many Russians consider the Ukrainian capital Kiev as the birthplace of their country and cite the numerous cultural links between the two countries.
Here is a brief summary of their relationships in the 20th century:
1918 — Ukraine declares independence from Russia during a years-long conflict fought by multiple countries and armies. Its independence and sovereignty receive international recognition at the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. Soviet troops later overthrow independent Ukraine. The Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic is founded in 1921 and Ukraine is incorporated into the Soviet Union the following year.
1932 and 1933 — A famine caused by Stalin’s collectivization policies kills millions of people, mostly ethnic Ukrainians in a republic known as the Soviet Union’s breadbasket. The disaster is known as the Holodomor, from the Ukrainian word for famine.
1939-1944 — The Soviet Union annexes what is now Western Ukraine from Poland and Romania. Later, Nazi Germany and the Axis powers invade the Soviet Union and occupy Ukraine, which is undergoing massive devastation.
1991 — Ukraine declares independence, a move endorsed by 92 percent of voters in a referendum. Russia, Ukraine and Belarus sign an agreement recognizing the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Ukraine begins a transition to a market economy and gains possession of a significant stock of nuclear weapons that had belonged to the Soviet Union.
1994 — Under the Budapest Memorandum, Ukraine gives up its nuclear arsenal in exchange for a commitment from Moscow “to respect Ukraine’s independence and sovereignty and existing borders.”