Home » Easy Yet In-Depth Explanation of the Crisis in Ukraine

Easy Yet In-Depth Explanation of the Crisis in Ukraine

By now the crisis in Ukraine is finally hitting mainstream news in the US. Such a shame as this has been going on for months…not at this level of intensity but the seeds were planted back in November. The problem I’m having with most of the news I read on it now is that, well, it’s mostly incorrect. There are two camps of news I’m seeing

  1. A simple recap of the day’s events with typical US sensationalism
  2. A simple recap of the day’s events with incorrect background as to what’s really going on there.

How did this happen? Well, when you’ve got “journalists” who are more concerned about Justin Bieber’s latest idiotic tirade than a peaceful protest (yes, this all started out as a peaceful protest) then of course they will miss all the minute details that have led to this mess. It’s the little details that really help paint the picture as to how we got here and what is really going on.

This post is here to educate the masses as to what is really happening. I hope to fill in the details that most every news agency has missed. This will be a culmination of what I’ve ready daily from various news sources, personal experience of my time in Ukraine, discussions with friends and acquaintances in Ukraine, and even conversations and picture sharing with acquaintances I’ve met on Instagram.

What you see today in Ukraine has been slowly building to the point it’s at now. Kyiv didn’t suddenly erupt into violent protests. It’s also not as simple as one issue (the main theme “journalists” like to report on is that this is ALL because of Ukraine’s President, Viktor Yakunovych’s refusal to join the EU. It’s much more than that.

So…here’s your typical timeline but with commentary included to help piece all the parts together.

Ukraine Not Joining the EU

Ukraine was in talks to join the EU. However, Yanukovych had been hemming and hawing and many wondered if he was actually going to sign the agreement but the deal was still on the table. Vladimir Putin had been trying for years to rebuild a Soviet-style empire by getting former Soviet states to join the Russian Customs Union (think a competing trade union to the European Union). So far it’s already comprised of Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan.

November 21, 2013 is when Yanukovych formally announces Ukraine will not join the EU and instead seek closer ties to Russia.

Side note: Yanukovych is traditionally more Russian-leaning and is from the eastern region of Ukraine which is also more Russian-leaning.

Opinion: I couldn’t really blame Ukraine for balking on the EU agreement as it wasn’t a full-on EU agreement. Ukraine had to make many concessions just to join and still wasn’t going to reap all the benefits of membership.

Prior to this point, many Ukrainians were fairly indifferent to the agreement. In fact, many Ukrainians were fairly indifferent to politics as the country is basically in shambles. It’s rated as one of the most corrupt nations in the world, the economy is suffering greatly and a great majority of the masses figure “what can we do about it?”. They’re used to living in these conditions of poor economy and a blatantly corrupt government.

Immediately after Yanukovych walks away from the EU deal protest begin in Maidan (Independence Square) in Kyiv. At first there were just a few hundred people voicing their unhappiness with this.

Protests Grow

On November 24, 2013 the protests have grown to roughly 100,000 people. Opposition leaders called on citizens to gather in Maidan over the weekend to formally protest Yanukovych’s decision. At this point the protests are now called Euromaidan.

Note: Keep in mind, it’s late November here and the temperatures in Kyiv are pretty cold. The protesters are staying all day and night in this frigid weather to voice their displeasure. It’s obvious by now that these protests may last a while.

On November 30, 2013 police launch a raid on the protesters and arrest a few dozen protesters. If you’ve been paying attention at this point you would have been seeing a few brutal acts by the police while protesters throw rocks back at the police. A few days later the protesters take over Kyiv City Hall and begin setting up a huge encampment in Independence Square full of tents, barricades, food tables, etc.

By December 8 there are nearly one million protesters in Independence Square (more than a million based on some accounts). The large metal Christmas tree has now become a huge cone of flags comprised of the EU flag, Ukrainian flag and even banners of Yulia Tymoshenko (former Prime Minister of Ukraine who was arrested and jailed in 2010 after Yanukovych took office. Officially she was charged on fraud charges but it’s been highly regarded around the world that she’s a political prisoner).

On December 17 Ukraine signs a deal with Russia where Russia will purchase $15 billion of Ukrainian debt and lower the cost of Russian gas to Ukraine.

Note: Russian gas has been a huge contention point between Ukraine and Russia. In the winters of 2006 and 2009 Russia cut off gas supplies to Ukraine because of various disagreements. Last numbers I remember seeing was that 80% of the Russian gas that flows to Europe makes its way through Ukraine. Obviously Ukraine is a vital part of Russia’s economy.

Opinion: Seeing Yanukovych lean once more toward Russia is unnerving to many people. The combination of accepting Russian money as well as cheaper gas seems to show that Ukraine will be creating even more ties to Russia…which some Ukrainians like (generally in the east and southern Ukraine) and infuriating other Ukrainians (generally toward the middle and west Ukraine).

Note: At this point many Ukrainians who once didn’t care about politics are now taking notice. One of my friends over there used to ask if I was interested in politics when I was visiting. I said yes but she said she didn’t really care because it didn’t matter. However talking to her on the phone in December you could hear the frustration in her voice and she was clearly interested in the political scene in Ukraine now. This has become true with many other Ukrainians and has also been a polarizing event as some are pro-east and some are pro-west and tempers flaring amongst friends as this all unfolds.

Anti-Protest Laws Passed

On January 16, 2014 Yanukovych’s government hastily passes (i.e., without formal legal procedure) a bunch of anti-protest laws. Examples of such laws are:

  • making it illegal to wear a mask
  • illegal to wear a helmet
  • illegal to gather in groups of more than five
  • illegal to set up a sound stage

Breaking one of these laws could lead to up to 15 years in prison. This of course infuriates the protesters and many Ukrainian citizens in general as they view these as draconian measures.

Note: It’s around this time that some of the more radical groups begin to join the protests. These groups are more apt to throw molotov cocktails at the police and get into more scuffles.

The First Deaths

On January 22, with more tempers flaring after the passage of these new laws, the scuffles between protesters and police finally turn deadly. Two protesters die from gunshot wounds, one man hangs himself and and activist is found dead (after being abducted a week before).

Opinion: This is when I began getting fairly concerned about my friends and acquaintances in Ukraine. By now I’ve been watching all these activities unfold…watching the government lean more toward Russia and watching peaceful protests turn deadly. After talking on the phone to a friend in Ukraine she warns me that I may not hear from her in a while as there are talks that the government will shut down the internet and shut down phone service and the only TV stations that will remain up are the government run stations.

Note: Throughout this time more and more protesters are showing up to Kyiv. They’ve begun taking over government buildings, building huge barricades of tires (and often burning those tires) and the protests are spreading to other cities around the country (mostly on the western side of the nation).

The government passes an amnesty bill that states the protesters who have been arrested will be released if the remaining protesters vacate the occupied government buildings. The protesters reject this. Later, the government releases the arrested protesters but charges against them remain.

On February 16 the protesters agree to leave the occupied Kyiv City Hall in a show of faith and the government grants the arrested protesters amnesty.

Opinion: At this point, I’m thinking “great, maybe the tension will subside a bit”. I’m still not really sure what to think by now though. Take note, the protesters have been calling for Yanukovych’s resignation and nothing less than that would be acceptable. It’s no longer about joining the EU (it hasn’t been for a while now) but is more about the Yanukovych’s government and its treatment of the people.

Note: At some point in January or early February Yanukovych offered Prime Minister spots to some of the opposition leaders. This was another time I thought “great, maybe we have some traction here” yet the opposition leaders declined this. One was quoted as saying “I will not drink from your poison chalice”.

More Violence Ensues

On February 18 the uneasy calm erupts into violence again. Reports of 28 people dead (the numbers vary widely based on the source). This is the worst violence since the beginning of the protests. It appears as if Kyiv is burning as the entire encampment looks to be on fire and both sides waging brutal attacks.

On February 20 a truce is called yet is short-lived. In this round of violence at least 100 are reported dead and over 500 injured. Disturbingly enough, about 20 of the dead look to be killed by police sniper fire (the snipers were seen on rooftops, the bullets found in the dead were the caliber of Ukrainian sniper rifles, most of the shots were single shots to the head).

Opinion: It’s only going to get worse before it gets better. Yanukovych doesn’t want to give up his power but that’s the only condition the protesters want. What are Yanukovych’s options here? Pass more laws to quell this? He has already called the actions “acts of terrorism” and “coup attempts”, thus threatening to bring in Russian anti-terrorist troops and other such troops.

As of now, Yanukovych has agreed to hold early elections (which he SHOULD lose if there is no blatant ballot-stuffing). If this is enough for opposition leaders still needs to be seen.

Opinion: Luckily Putin is occupied with the Olympics right now. I fear that once the Olympics are over he will raise all hell to squash the resistance and pull Ukraine back into Russia’s influence. Ukraine is a nation rich in natural resources as well as a major gas thoroughfare to Europe. Of course Putin doesn’t want to give up Ukraine to western influence.

Putin is a smart man. He’s made the US look like bumbling idiots in the situations with Iran and Syria. Can (and more importantly, WILL) the EU and US do anything or will everyone stand by and watch Putin pull Ukraine into its own sphere?


This is simply a recap with of the events with all the minor details. To understand this even more one will have to do research and see how tumultuous the region has been since the dawn of time. Ukraine is a beautiful nation with beautiful people. It saddens me to see them torn apart in so many different directions, to not prosper as much as they should. Smart, kind, determined people. They deserve a chance to flourish.

So the next article you see that says this is all about not joining the EU, move along until you get to the real facts.

Imagine the neighborhood bully…constantly taking your lunch money and calling you names. You’ve dealt with this for years but no change has happened. One day the bully takes your football and it finally gets you and your friends mad enough to do something about it. You protest, you gather round, and all the events that transpire afterwards snowball into bigger events. Is this simply about the football? No. The football was just the straw that broke the camel’s back and years of pent up frustration have finally taken their toll.

Pray for Ukraine.