The Ukraine. Is there a solution?
All the news these days is about the Malaysian plane which was shot down over rebel held territory in the Ukraine, and how Russia is interfering in internal Ukrainian affairs.
Let me state very clearly there is NO excuse for what happened to the Malaysian civilian airliner. Period. Whether or not the shooting down was accidental or on-purpose doesn’t matter. It was wrong.
This article is about how many people are upset at how they see Russian President Putin trying to grab even more land in his bid to once again create a new version of Imperial Russia.
In order to understand why everything that is happening IS happening, it is essential to understand what has and is now going on in the Ukraine itself, and why Russia sees it as part of what it refers to as ‘Mother Russia.’
First of all, Ukraine is home to a nearly eight million ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine and Crimea. Some twenty-five percent of the forty-six million Ukrainians claim Russian as their mother tongue.
Now, for the past: Kievan (or Kylvan) Rus, the first Slavic nation, stretched from the Baltic to the Black Sea. Curiously, ‘Rus’ is ‘Slav’ for the ‘Vikings,’or 'Reds,' who established a new kingdom centered around its new capital, Kiev.
Genghis (or Jenghiz) Khan’s Mongol warriors of the ‘Golden Horde’ seized control of the Ukraine in the 13th Century. Moscow, which had been previously nothing more than a small ‘Rus’ trading outpost, became their new capital.
For centuries, Cossack fighters patrolled the region, much of which had fallen under the control of either the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania’s governments.
It is now that the term ‘Ukraine’ began to be used to describe this region by the Slavs. It translates as ‘Borderland’ or ‘At the Border,” a sensible designation.
Once Imperial Russia became the main power in the region, all of what they referred to as the ‘Little Russians’ in what is now Ukraine fell under their rule. The only part that didn’t? West Ukraine, or Galicia, as it was known then, was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
In 1783, Russia annexed the former ‘Khanate of Crimea,’ when had heretofore been a ‘Vassal State’ of the Ottoman Empire, which had assumed control of the territory after the departure of Genghis Khan’s ‘Empire of the Golden Hordes.’
The first nation known as Ukraine, or more accurately the Ukrainian Peoples Republic, emerged after the collapse of both of the Russian and Austro-Hungarian empires at the end of World War I.
Eventually, the Bolsheviks, who formed Moscow's new government, gained control of Ukrainian territory, which as the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic became part of the new Soviet Union in 1922.
Under the rule of Joseph Stalin, upwards of ten million people are said to have died in the Ukraine due to mass executions and a famine which plagued the area.
Seizing the opportunity, Stalin ordered millions of ethnic Russians and other Soviet peoples to the coal and iron rich Eastern Ukraine to re-populate the area.
When Nazi Germany seized Ukraine in 1941, many saw the Nazis as their liberators from Soviet rule and fought alongside them, hoping to be given an independent state.
Unfortunately for the Ukrainians, the Nazis changed their tune and began using the Ukrainians as slave labor. As a result, nearly three million Ukrainians joined the battle.
While many formed what became known as the Ukrainian Insurgent Army fighting for their independence from both sides, many other Ukrainian fighters joined the Red Army and fought alongside them as their allies.
Some one-sixth of the country’s population, over five million people, died during the war. Over two million of those were Jews. With an Allied victory, Stalin once again purged tens of thousands of Ukrainians whom he saw as enemies.
As the Soviet Union fell into disarray, more than ninety percent of the native Ukrainians supported their country’s formal declaration of independence in 1991.
In Ukraine's 2004 presidential election, the Kremlin gave much financial and other support to the decidedly pro-Russian candidate Viktor Yanukovych.
Yanukovych, it turns out, had served as both the former Governor of the now rebel-held Donetsk region and had been a former Prime Minister of the Ukraine.
Victor Yushenko, was his primary opponent. Yushenko was the former President of the Ukrainian National Bank, and a former Prime Minister of the Ukraine as well.
While the 2004 election season was underway, it was revealed that Yushenko had been stricken by a massive Dioxin poisoning, but his attacker(s) remained unknown. He survived, but his face is pock-marked from the poisoning.
The ‘Orange Revolution,’ which was triggered by allegations of massive voter fraud, turned into a series of national riots and massive protests in the Ukrainian capital Kiev.
Whereas Yanukovych was originally declared the winner, after that election was annulled and another one held, Viktor Yushenko was declared the winner.
Viktor Yanukovych didn’t give up, and was elected in the 2010 elections, which were certified as fair and honest by the Central Election Committee.
Yanukovich was himself ousted as President due the “Euromaidan’ Revolution in February of 2014. These protests brought the capital city of Kiev to a standstill and drew the world’s attention.
Yanukovich had made the mistake of cancelling an overwhelmingly popular foreign trade agreement with the European Union, he was driven from power. He thought closer ties with Moscow would be better, but most of the Ukraine disagreed.
New elections were held throughout most of the country. This was not the case however in Crimea, which had already been annexed by Russia in March of 2014, as well across much of the now rebel-held Eastern Ukrainian region.
Elected as the new President was Petro Poroshenko, a very wealthy Ukranian business and ‘candy-magnate.’ His main opponent had been Yulia Tymoshenko, co-leader of the ‘Orange Revolution’ and first Ukrainian female Prime Minister.
As if this is not confusing enough, the new Prime Minister, Arseny Yatseniuk, who replaced Viktor Yanukoviych, has just resigned because of the chaos in the country's energy sector and the lack of funding for the Ukrainian Army.
So, it is clear to see that the truth about the Ukraine as a whole is, well, not at all clear. Crimea has declared itself Russian, and been accepted into the Russian state.
As to Eastern Ukraine, well, the interference of Putin and the influx of both Russian citizens and military personnel willing to fight alongside the pro-Russian rebels is certainly not making things easy for those citizens there, no matter what their allegiances.
The history of the region over the centuries guarantees that the feelings of both the ethnic Russians and Ukrainians who now live in the Eastern region of the Ukraine feel varying degrees of suspicion or hatred towards each other.
Will either side back down or just walk away? That likelihood is, well, very unlikely. With the passing of each day, as more people die on each side, the visible hatred and desire for revenge grows.
It seems to me that any military victory, if one were possible to achieve in the Eastern Ukraine giving the ever-more equal military posture of both sides, would simply guarantee that the area would become another hotspot of rebellion.
Truth be told, neither of these sides wants that to happen. They all state categorically they want peace, just on their own terms, and under a government of their own choosing. That, therefore, would appear to be the best solution.
A referendum, not national, as it doesn’t affect the daily lives of those who live outside Eastern Ukraine, but one in which those citizens who were registered voters in both the 2010 and 2014 elections are guaranteed the chance to choose their future.
No Russian citizens, no matter what their claim, reason, or even excuse, should be allowed to participate. Nor should any Ukrainian registered in another region be allowed to cast a vote.
Then and only then would both sides do the two things necessary for a true referendum to be held: ensure all of their citizens took this opportunity to choose what they wanted to happen; and believe that the results, whatever they might be, truly were indicative of the will of the citizens of the Eastern Ukraine.
Will this happen? Since no one has consulted me for my suggestion on how to solve this crisis I doubt it. Even if such a proposal were to be floated by either side, I am not sure whether or not all of the combatants could be persuaded to lay down their arms. That, my friends, would be truly sad!
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