Friday, 25 February 2022

Ukraine explained...

In case you, or your kids (your own or those you teach) are wondering what the hell is going on, the following brief explainer might be helpful. After all, the finer points of Ukrainian history and politics aren't something we're all automatically familiar with, and even if we were, there's still a lot that's unclear if not downright confusing. 

I mean, what is Putin doing? Contrary to what people like Arron Bank's are saying (and, let's just say he may have his own, personal reasons for doing so) Ukraine is not Russian in the same way as the Isle of Wight is British.

Far from it. Ukraine became a member or the USSR exactly a century ago in 1922. But with the collapse of the Soviet Union it became an independent nation state in 1991. So far, so good. 

The problem, as far as there is one, is the Russina-speaking oblasts (regions) of Donetsk and Luhansk. There's been a conflict there for some time, between Russian-backed separatists and Ukrainian forces. On the face of it, that might seem analogous to, say, Basque or Catalan separatist movements in Spain, or republican struggles in Ireland. 

But... those two Eastern oblasts make up the huge Donats coalfield. Yes, coal. Lots and lots of it. Coincidence? Maybe. But the "mere" fact of a region being populated by people speaking a language hasn't generally been considered grounds for an invasion. The German military occupation of Czechoslovakia, that began with the annexation of the German-speaking Sudetenland in 1938, anyone?

What underlies the whole thing is the fact that since 2014, when the pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych was removed from office after widespread protests. Russia regarded his overthrow as an illegal coup and refused to recognize the new government. Shortly afterwards they (Russia) annexed the Crimean peninsula, which is still regarded internationally as part of Ukraine. 

Having effectively got away with that, it was, perhaps, inevitable that Putin would eventually go further. A large, pro-Western country talking about joining NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, effectively a military mutual-aid agreement between 30 Western nations) on its border might be regarded as a threat, but... well, that's what the Ukranian's wanted. The 2014 Revolution of Dignity (also known as the Maidan revolution) came about because pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych had refused to sign a free-trade EU association agreement. As soon as he fled the country, that contract was signed and shortly afterwards Petro Poroshenko became President of Ukraine following a landslide victory. That seems a pretty clear indication of the "will of the people." Certainly far stronger than the so-called "will of the people" that resulted in us, here in the UK, leaving the EU last year. 

So, so... I hope that helps. I realise it might actually make things worse. But it's important to understand, and to get your information from a reliable, non-partisan source. (Ok, ok, I make no secret of being a dyed-in-the-wool remainer but apart from that...) 

What's also important is to do whatever you can. There's a good list of organisation you can support who are striving to get help to those who need it most at this terrible time. And they, of course, are the innocent men, women and children of Ukraine. 

Here's a link that explains how we can help them: 

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2022/feb/24/how-can-britons-help-the-people-of-ukraine


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