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Crisis in Ukraine remains center of global focus

The crisis in Ukraine has grabbed the world’s attention lately as Russia moved its troops into Crimea to annex that peninsula into the Russian Federation. Although the crisis has been in the headlines since February, it actually started long before. 

Ukraine was a part of the USSR until August of 1991, when Ukrainians voted to declare independence. 

The politics of the country have been divided between the pro-Russian politican Viktor Yanukovych and the pro-Western politicians Viktor Yushchenko and Yulia Tymoshenko. 

In 2004, Yushchenko and Tymoshenko led the Orange Revolution which overthrew the elected pro-Russian government led by Viktor Yanukovych.  

But in 2010, Yanukovych once again won the presidential election, and his main rival Tymoshenko was put in prison and charged with abuse of powers. 

As if the power struggle of Ukraine's own government wasn't enough, in November of 2013, president Yanukovych abandoned the agreement to have closer ties with European Union, and decided to have a closer relationship with Russia. 

This action caused huge protests in Ukraine, as 100,000 people demonstrated in the Independence Square in Ukraine’s capital Kiev. The protesters started to occupy the square and Kiev City Hall in December 2013. 

Despite the protests, Yanukovych signed agreements with President Putin of Russia to let Russia buy $15 billion of Ukrainian debt on December 17.  O

n Feb. 18, 2014, violence erupted between protesters and police in Independence Square, and 18 people were dead, including seven policemen. 

Two days later, violence worsened as 88 people were killed. Facing international pressure and outrage over the killings, Yanukovych compromised with the opposition on Feb. 21, 2014 and then disappeared the next day as protestors took control of government buildings and freed Tymoshenko from jail. 

A new government was formed and Yanukovich was removed from power and an arrest warrant was issued. As the Ukrainian government shifted from pro-Russia to anti-Russia, the Ukrainian region of Crimea became unstable. 

The region originally was part of Russia but was given to Ukraine by Khrushchev in 1954. However, most of its residents are ethnically Russian and feel closer to Russia than to Ukraine. 

On Feb. 27, pro-Russian military men seized buildings in the capital of Crimea. On March 1, Russian parliament allowed Putin to use force in Crimea to protect Russian-speaking residents and Russian troops invaded Crimea. 

Crimea’s government then scheduled a referendum to separate from Ukraine and join Russia on March 16. On that day, 97 percent of voters voted to join Russia. 

President Putin then signed a bill to formally annex Crimea into Russian territory. 

The United States and the European Union were outraged by the annexation and imposed sanctions on Russia.

So far the annexation of Crimea by Russia seems unlikely to be reversed, as Western leaders are reluctant to confront Russia with force. 

But what’s more important is the fact that Putin’s popularity in Russia has soared as a result of it. Russian people saw pride and patriotism from his actions, which seem to make Russia stronger.

Ukraine is a relatively small country, and its military is no match for Russia. Despite the sanctions imposed by the West, Putin is not going to back down because Crimea is what makes Putin looks like a patriotic hero to the Russian people. 

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