Ukraine is in a state of crisis following months of unrest. Its neighbor, Russia, has sent military troops into the country, which Ukraine calls an act of war.
Russian President Vladimir Putin claims military forces are there only to keep peace in the troubled country. But President Obama and U.S. allies around the world worry that Russia is actually attempting to gain control over its neighbor. Ukraine and the United States fear that further action by Russia could lead to an invasion and war between Ukraine and Russia.
MONTHS OF PROTESTS
Protests have shaken Ukraine for more than three months. Citizens’ demands for a new government have been met with violence by the country’s military. Many have been jailed, hundreds have been injured, and several dozen have been killed.
The protests began in November. Many Ukrainians wanted stronger political and business ties with the Europe and the United States. They were upset when their president decided to instead move closer to Russia. In response, citizens in Ukraine began staging mass protests.
A HISTORICAL DIVIDE
For many years, Ukraine and Russia were both part of the Soviet Union. Ukraine was one of the most powerful republics in the Soviet Union, second only to Russia. When the Soviet Union broke apart into 15 countries in 1991, Ukraine maintained strong ties with Russia.
Many business, family, and cultural connections still exist between the two countries, especially in Crimea, the eastern part of Ukraine where Russian military forces have gathered. More than 50 percent of Crimeans have Russian backgrounds, and many speak Russian as their first language.
HOPE TO KEEP PEACE
Russian leaders say their military is there only to protect Russians in Crimea, as well as Russia’s political and business interests in the region. But world leaders are worried that Russian actions could lead to war breaking out.
Putin said on Monday that his country’s military has not used force against Ukraine but that it could. “If we make such a decision, it will only be for the protection of Ukrainian citizens,” Putin said.
Europe and the U.S. have said that they want the two countries to reach an agreement without fighting. President Barack Obama says the U.S. is working with European leaders on ways to keep the crisis from getting worse.