The crisis in Ukraine, after acquiring international dimensions, is developing at a pace reminiscent of an external aggression in its incipient stages. Many protesters who had been picketing Independence Square in Kiev for weeks paid with their lives and the Square is still lined with flowers in a makeshift shrine to the martyrs. Protesters apparently got what they wanted. President Viktor Yanukovich had to leave in a huff — and later commented from his hideout in Russia that he was made to flee by the turn
Ukrainians, and most of them, wanted to get rid of Yanukovich. But never would have they imagined that the situation would take an unexpected turn. Eastern Ukraine has traditionally been pro-Russia. There were fights in the Ukrainian parliament when the Yanukovich government carried through a legislation giving Russian the status of an official language. As the crisis unfolded, Russia — sensing that it is losing support in its former lair, found an opportune moment to assert itself in Crimea, the Black Sea autonomous state, which has a majority ethnic Russian population. Putin’s initial silence during the crisis was mysterious. However, he came out against the ouster of Yanukovich, a staunch ally, in a seemingly impromptu press meet where he blasted the interim government as illegitimate and said that it reserved the right to use force if the Russian population in Crimea was threatened.
Yesterday, Crimea’s local parliament voted on a resolution asking Moscow to allow the territory to become a part of the Russian federation. The state will hold a referendum on March 16 wherein Crimeans will be asked whether they want their region to separate from Ukraine and become a part of Russia. Going by support for Russia in the Ukrainian state, Putin can laugh all the way to the Crimean capital Simferopol after the plebiscite. The Russian leader who doesn’t tire blaming the United States for its ‘imperialistic ambitions’, will have achieved the separation of a third region from the former Soviet Union. In 2008, Russia helped the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia separate after a brief war that saw the small former Soviet Republic pitted against its giant former master.
Ukraine has very strong cultural and historical ties with Moscow. In fact, Russia could never come to accept after the break up of the Soviet Union that Ukraine was no longer with it. At a point in history, Russia was known as Kievan Rus — a powerful East Slavic state dominated by the city of Kiev. Shaped in the 9th century, it went on to flourish for the next 300 years. It is believed that Putin has strong emotional links to history and he is a follower of three Russian philosophers who always believed in the supremacy of the Russian civilisation. Putin’s nationalistic fervour probably takes from there. And if Ukraine loses Crimea, Putin will have another victory
up his sleeve.