WTF is going on in the Ukraine ?!

This is half a debate, half a request for information.

I’m aware that there’s something of a revolution going on in the Ukraine. I’m aware that Ukrainians are using both modern (Molotov) and medieval (trebuchets, morningstars) means to fuck up their riot cops.
But I’m not 100% on what’s really going on there. Apparently the “revolutionaries” want to join the EU - which is swell, except nobody asked them or offered them to. Also apparently the government are a bunch of fascist fuckwits (Go resistance !) but judging from AFP pictures hard-right, neo-nazi nationalists seem to make up a large part of the activists (Fuck 'em, Go Government !).

So I’m confused and don’t quite know whom to root for. Which is Important. Twitter hashtags are at stake. Can anybody shed some further light on what’s going on there ?

Here’s a pretty decent primer.

The president of the Ukraine is a guy named Vitor Yanukovich. When he got elected, he promised closer relations with the EU, even though his party, a party called the Party of Regions, has a reputation as being pro-Russian. A lot of Ukrainians support joining the EU, both because they believe it’ll help their economy, and because they’re worried about Russia, and see this as a counterbalance. So, he got elected in 2010, on a platform of closer ties to the EU and reducing corruption, even though there were a lot of irregularities in voting.

Jump ahead to 2012, when the EU and the Ukraine, as part of the EU’s European Neighborhood Policy, agreed to a framework for a free trade zone, but said that before it could happen, Ukraine would have to pass a bunch of reforms, including setting free some political prisoners (including a former Prime Minister), passing electoral and judicial reform, and a bunch of other things. So, through 2012, and 2013, the Ukrainian parliament went forward, and made some legislative changes. While this was going on, Yanukovich was also negotiating with Russia and Belarus for a customs union, which left the EU negotiators confused. Meanwhile, Russia started getting kind of threatening, banning some Ukrainian products from import “for health and safety reasons”, being more stringent on customs inspections, and warning Ukraine that association with the EU would be “destabilizing”, that Russia could “no longer protect” the country in that case, and that Russia would hate to have to send troops in at the request of pro-Russian Ukrainians…not that this is a threat…they’re just saying.

So, jump ahead to November of 2013. The Ukranian Parliament was ready to pass laws allowing the imprisoned former Prime Minister, who’s sick, to travel to get medical treatment, which was one of the EU requirements, and the EU’s Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnus, Lithuania was going to be held, where the treaty would be signed.

Suddenly, the Parliament didn’t pass the laws and the government announced they wouldn’t be going to the Eastern Partnership summit. Protests broke out, really big ones. The Ukrainian government made a statement that they had canceled because of Russian concerns and because the deal was a bad one for the Ukraine. Protests, largely peaceful, continued.

In December, the Russian government announced that it was buying $15 billion in Ukrainian bonds, and it was going to reduce the cost of natural gas exports to the Ukraine. They said that there hadn’t been any talks yet about a customs union, but that they were still open to the possibility. The Ukrainian government was non-committal, but expressed hopes that they could have some relationship with the EU. Protests continued. The protesters, led by the opposition party, demanded the President resign, the government sign the EU agreement, political prisoners be freed, and the constitution be changed…

On January 16, the Ukrainian parliament passed anti-protest laws, making it illegal to block streets or buildings, cause traffic jams, gathering and revealing information about the police, wearing masks, defamation or criticism of government officials, and “extremist activity”, and got rid of Parliamentary immunity.

A few days later, the police charged the crowd, and what started as a protest turned into rioting.

Why doesn’t Russia join the EU? They’d be the biggest thing in it.

That was one of Berlusconi’s ideas, but Russia doesn’t want to join the EU right now and have its economic policy in the hands of foreigners, and the EU wouldn’t accept Russia without a lot of social, political, and economic reforms.

In addition to Captain Amazing’s description, an excellent read on the history of the situation is available for free from Stratfor.

Basically, Ukraine is vital to Russian national security. The Eastern half of the populace, especially the politicians, are tied to Russia because they’ve been their benefactors for a century. The Western half of the populace is tied to Europe, both by descent and by seeing the EU “out their windows” so to speak. It’s a harsh division between two power bases.

The short answer is that Russia dreams of regaining its Eurasian empire, this time by making client states out of its former republics, or if necessary, staging the occasional invasion (like its spanking of Georgia a few years ago). Russia wants the Ukraine to be like Mongolia or Tibet is to China–autonomous in name only.

Let’s not forget that Russia used the Ukraine as a resource colony for decades. It also parked the Chernobyl plant there because if and when it went blooie, it would kill Ukrainians, not Russians. Stalin starved millions in the Ukraine, partially as punishment for its support of the White Russians, partly because he loved to kill people.

So the Ukrainians would, as a whole, rather be tied socially, politically, and economically to Europe than to the Russians.

I came in to link to that article. Point one: it’s Ukraine, not the Ukraine. Rule one about the fight club…

How did it get to be known as “the” Ukraine, anyway? What is it, like, Batman?

Re: So the Ukrainians would, as a whole, rather be tied socially, politically, and economically to Europe than to the Russians

Sort of. The majority would, but a significant minority (many but not all of whom are ethnic Russians) would like to be closer to Russia. I don’t think their interests should be thrown under the bus either.

Ukraine means (roughly) borderland; it has traditionally been the western edge of the Russian empire. Now it is not the borderland of Russia, but Borderland, the independent country.

In his Clash of Civilizations theory – the map on the Wiki page doesn’t show it, but the map in his book did, and he spelled it out in the text – Samuel P. Huntington saw the Ukraine as being divided between Western Civilization (western half) and Orthodox Civilization (eastern half). Historically, much of western Ukraine was at times the territory of some western Catholic power, such as the Austro-Hungarian Empire or the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, but eastern Ukraine was almost always under Russian rule.

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“The Ukraine”? Why “The”? If the Ukrainian language is anything like Russian, it does not even have a definite article.

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True, but upon winning independence, the preposition changed from na to v to describe the state of being in Ukraine.

That’s also the reason why the EU will never accept Russia. Right now there’s a pretty even balance between the populations and sizes of the economies of the big three in the EU. That, and they’re basically a mafia state.