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What’s going on with Ukraine and Russia? A brief explainer. 

By Monica Chen 

Russia is vocally denying that it had anything to do with the recent cyberattack on the Ukrainian government. 

But the conflict in the Donbass, the Southeastern part of Ukraine, has going on for years now. More than 13,000 people have been killed. What is it? Why has it not been resolved? Where is it headed? 

Russian officials are frustrated with the narrative in the global media. The Russian deputy representative to the United Nations also pointedly corrected the U.S. Under Secretary of State this past week: 

But anyone in the world would be alarmed at the build-up of Russian forces at the Ukrainian border, numbering more than 100,000 troops as of the past week, according to The Wall Street Journal.

What’s going on?

Imagine if two regions in Mexico with significant ties to America declared they were seceding from Mexico and pleaded to America for assistance, saying the Mexican government had become intolerably Fascist. Imagine America sending assistance to those regions, but then they turn around and sign agreements with the Mexican government to sell them valuable exports. 

Imagine if at the same time, those Mexican independent regions are vandalizing and tearing down statues of American leaders. Then imagine America was constantly blasted in newspapers around the world that it was planning to invade Mexico — any day now! But the leaders of those secessionist regions, that we have been helping, never say a word to correct that assumption. 

Now substitute in Ukraine and Russia in the above scenario. That’s what has been going on for the past eight years. 

Coal-rich Donetsk and Lugansk regions, together making up the Donbass in Eastern Ukraine declared their independence, by overwhelming Democratic vote, in 2014. That was shortly after the first New Year’s Day annual torchlight march for Stephan Bandera, a Ukraine nationalist figure. That was alarming, because Bandera was an ally of Adolf Hitler in World War II. The world’s media focused its attention on the Crimea in 2014 and the Donbass was largely ignored. Russia made the mistake of speaking up for those regions in 2014 and has been dragged along in their conflict ever since. 

The Minsk peace agreement from 2014 has been largely ignored.

More recently, in December, former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko was charged with treason for — yes, helping the “Russia-backed separatists” sell about $54 million worth of coal to Kyiv in 2014 and 2015. 

Some questions: 

Why did Donestk and Lugansk secede from Ukraine in 2014? Besides creepy torchlight marches for Bandera, the Ukrainian government had not taken any action that hurt the regions.

What countries, with their own independent governments and economy, free from foreign aid, are the leaders of the regions wanting to build? 

Why does the newspaper of the Donetsk People’s Republic portray the area as peaceful and prosperous if they are supposedly oppressed and war-torn? Wouldn’t the newspaper of an area going through turmoil want to publicize what’s really going on there and make the case to the world what needs to be done about the aggressor? 

In the video, why does the soldier say the reward at the end of the war would be a passport to Russia? Shouldn’t it be sovereignty? Shouldn’t it be having your own country? 

Do the people of Donetsk and Lugansk really want to have their own countries, or do they just not want to participate in their own country, that is, Ukraine? 

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