The Ukraine Crisis may seem straightforward to some, but Russia would have observers look at the situation in a different light. Russia’s side of the story plays out in an altered fashion compared to the story that the West touts. Whether or not it is believable is up to the reader to decide.
First and foremost, the Ukraine Crisis is understood by everyone to be the result of longstanding economic troubles within Ukraine. However that is where the similarities seem to end. Former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich handled these debt issues most notably by developing stronger ties with Russia and foregoing populist ties with the EU.
This caused wide-spread demonstrations and eventually Yanukovich’s ouster. Russia argued that his forced resignation and subsequent exile were illegitimate, as was the current intern government. Putin and other officials have stated that it was the West’s fault for escalating tensions as it was Russia’s view that Western agents and the provocateurs of unrest to deliberately undermine Ukraine and Russia’s otherwise cozy relationship.
Furthermore, Russia denied that it was Moscow’s hand that played out the events in Crimea. It was the Kremlin’s position that unrest was cause by popular disdain for the supposedly illegitimate government in Ukraine. Although Putin had recently admitted that Russian troops were indeed in Crimea, he also denied that they played a role in the overthrow of the government there and the subsequent referendum leading to annexation that took place.
In the same way, the Ukraine Crisis today is one of two widely different tales. Russia’s side of the story was that pro-Russian protestors in the South-Eastern regions of Ukraine were only causing unrest in response to the Kiev government. It was Russia’s position that these protestors were acting on their own volition and were simply fighting for regional autonomy.
Russia also asserted that they had absolutely no troops in Ukraine, military intelligence officers or otherwise, and it was a supposed “worst case scenario,” if civil war were to continue. Officials argued that it was the West, not Russia, that had created the precarious situation and Russia was only hoping for a diplomatic solution that brought greater equality to Russian speakers in Ukraine.
As well, according to the same officials, Ukraine’s government was acting too quickly and bringing crackdowns on protestors violently. Officials argued that the military suppression of protestors demonstrated the illegitimacy of the current intern government and the need for more autonomy in the region. As well, Russia argues that Ukraine had broken the tenants of the recent Geneva Pact by their continued aggressive actions against protestors.
Finally and perhaps most importantly, Putin made it clear that he did not intend on annexing South-Eastern Ukraine. The some 40,000 Russian troops massed on the border were sent there to protect Russia itself from the unrest in Ukraine, though Putin admitted that he was authorized by Russian lawmakers to intervene in the crisis if it was to protect Russian speakers.
Whether or not Russia’s side of the story has any truth or not, it cannot be ignored. As it stands, the Ukraine Crisis has certainly hotly obtained totally opposite narratives from different people and so this has shown just how contentious that divide has run. Whichever account happens to be true, the issue is anything but straightforward.
By Brett Byers-Lane
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