In the grand scheme of things, the history of Ukraine is fairly short but that short history is long on conflict.
The Soviet republic of Ukraine declared independence from Moscow in 1991.
Things remained quiet in the new democracy until 2004 when a pro-Russian candidate was declared president. Allegations of vote-rigging triggered protests and what’s now known as the Orange Revolution. The democracy was restored when the pro-western former prime minister, Viktor Yushchenko was then named the rightful winner.
In 2008, Nato promised Ukraine it would one day join the alliance. The promise never materialized.
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Two years later, in 2010, a pro-Russian president was elected. Viktor Yanukovich, who was originally declared winner in that rigged 2004 election, formally took office. He suspended trade with the European Union and revived ties with Moscow.
Fast forward to 2014 when violent protests gripped the capital of Ukraine, Kyiv. Dozens of protesters were killed. It forced a change in leadership. Yanukovich fled to Russia.
On another front, and within days, armed men seized Crimea and raised the Russian flag. Moscow and an emboldened Russian President Vladamir Putin annexed the territory.
In 2019 a missile brought down a passenger plane in Eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board. Investigators traced the weapon back to Russia. To this day it denies any involvement. Since 2014, fighting has been underway in two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine. It is those regions that Putin declared independent this week. Conflict is not new to those areas.
In January 2021, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy asked Biden to allow Ukraine to join the NATO alliance. In response, Russian troops began massing near Ukraine’s borders that spring. Biden warned Russia of sweeping economic sanctions in December if they advanced.
That brings us to the current situation. For weeks there have been warnings of an invasion, Russian denials, threats of sanctions.
Now we know the aggression is a reality, the Russian denials a flagrant lie, the sanctions a reality. More, tougher sanctions on the horizon are meant to financially strangle Putin and Russia. World leaders hope they will force his hand to end what Ukraine’s president calls an all-out war. A situation described as the darkest hours Europe has seen since World War II.