A Concise Summary Of The Political Situation In Ukraine

The following is a speech about the Crimean Crisis that was originally written in March 2014 for a VCE English Unit 1 Assessment Task. 

I have a question to you: how would you feel if the US troops arrived in Tasmania to claim the land as their own?

I don’t think you would feel very comfortable with that.

Yet, this is what seems to have happened in Crimea and as we talk is happening in many eastern regions of Ukraine.

Crimea is a small peninsula, but strategically very important, that is joined to the mainland Ukraine by a small strip of land and is easily accessible from Russia by ferry.

The Crimean Crisis of 2014 began with protests in Ukraine’s capital, Kiev, in late November 2013. The people of Ukraine were protesting against the government’s decision not to go ahead with the Association Agreement with the European Union. To the people, the Agreement meant less corruption, better economic opportunities and, really, the kind of life we are used to in Australia and other developed countries.

The government attempted to violently suppress the protests, but this only made the protesters more determined. After more than two months of political turmoil, in late February 2014, the Ukrainian President, Viktor Yanukovich, fled the country without resigning from his position. The parliament, where the opposition by then held a majority, installed an acting president and scheduled presidential elections for the 25th of May 2014. However, Russia does not recognize the current government of Ukraine. Consequently, it deployed its troops to the Crimean peninsula where it was renting a military base. A referendum was held and Crimea was proclaimed a part of Russia. Today I am going to explain to you why there is no justification Russia’s actions.

First of all, Russia’s military actions in Crimea violated numerous international laws and treaties, most importantly, the Budapest Memorandum of Security Assurance. This treaty was signed in 1994 when the Ukraine renounced the nuclear weapons it had been given by the Soviet Union when the latter fell apart. In this treaty, Russia, along with the UK and the US, pledge “their obligation to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of the Ukraine”. It is clear that the presence of foreign troops in a nation’s region threatens the nation’s territorial integrity.

Nevertheless, Russia insists that the people of Crimea maintained their right to self-determination through a referendum. The referendum has been condemned by most of the world, including the US and Australia, as it does not meet the criteria for a democratic referendum.  The referendum was organized in an extremely short time frame of two weeks, while normally it takes, at the very least, a month to organize a referendum. This time is necessary for the people to familiarize themselves with the questions and for thorough discussion to occur, which is integral to a democratic referendum. Moreover, it is obvious that a democratic referendum cannot occur when there are foreign troops present.

Russia maintains that it was protecting the people of Crimea from an illegal government and the presence of troops was necessary for the referendum to be democratic. I am going to explain to you why the current government of Ukraine is fully democratic and legitimate and has not been established through a coup. The opposition began to gain more support in the parliament as the protests gained strength in the capital and the opposition came to power in some regions. This was because many members of the pro-Russian ‘Party of the Regions’, which supported Viktor Yanukovich, reevaluated their political views and left the party. They realized that they probably would not want to be affiliated with a corrupt leader that had used force against his own people. This is not a coup as a coup is, according to Oxford Dictionary, “A sudden, violent, and illegal seizure of power from a government”. Furthermore, Viktor Yanukovich, decided to flee the country as he understood that he would have to face criminal charges for his actions while he was in power.

This is why the current government of the Ukraine is a legitimate one and there is no need for Russia to deploy its troops to Ukrainian territory.

I would like to leave you with some words from the YouTuber and poet Anastasiya Dmitruk, whose poem and song “Give Us Back Our Sky” went viral.

Why did you come here, our neighbors?

Why did you come here with war?

Didn’t we baptize our children together?

Didn’t we celebrate together?

So why did you surround us with a column of soldiers and tanks?

Thank you for listening!

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