From Maidan protests to the Russian invasion: Eight years of conflict in Ukraine

Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine on February 24 put the small eastern European country at the center of international attention, and Jowhartraces the chronology of the conflict between Moscow and Kiev to the Maidan protests in the Ukrainian capital in late 2013.

After years of latent conflict between Russia and Ukraine and rising tensions in recent months, Russian President Vladimir Putin launched an invasion on Thursday. Russian forces are targeting control of major Ukrainian cities, including the capital, Kyiv, while the West has imposed economic sanctions on Russia and started direct talks between Moscow and Kiev.

Jowhartraces its roots: November 2013, during the Ukraine Square protest movement, which led to the ouster of former pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych and the beginning of the current conflict.

2013: Maidan protests and secession from Russia, November 21: After Ukraine’s long rapprochement with the European Union under President Viktor Yushchenko (2005-2010) that began after the country’s Orange Revolution in 2004, Yushchenko’s successor Yanukovych decides to move away from Europe . He is abandoning the Association Agreement proposed by the European Union, which refused to give him a loan of 20 billion euros. Ukraine is divided between this European economic integration project and the rival Russian proposal for a customs union. Demonstrations broke out in the country.

1 December: In Kyiv, protests break out on Independence Square or “Maidan”, which will give the movement its name. Among the opposition are pro-Europeans such as former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko (then in detention) and current Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko, as well as nationalists from the far-right Svoboda party. Demonstrators erect barricades in Independence Square and take control of City Hall.

Putin worries about a movement he says looks more like a massacre than a revolution and has “little to do with the relationship between Ukraine and the European Union”. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov condemns foreign interference.

December 17: Despite the demonstrations, Yanukovych remains in Moscow’s favour, and Putin announces the lifting of tariff barriers between the two countries, a gas price reduction and a $15 billion loan.

2014: Yanukovych leaves, Donbass and Crimea are at the center of the crisis, February: Clashes between protesters and security forces turn bloody, Ukraine has its bloodiest month of violence. Nearly 90 people were killed in Kyiv between February 18 and 21, according to authorities.

Facing the crisis in Ukraine, officials from several Western countries have arrived in the country to negotiate early presidential elections.

February 22: The Verkhovna Rada deposes Yanukovych, who leaves Kyiv and forms an interim government. Putin denounces the coup and declares that “Russia reserves the right to use all available options, including force as a last resort.”

March: Clashes between pro- and anti-Russian activists in Simferopol, the capital of Crimea, an autonomous republic within Ukraine whose residents speak mostly Russian. With a naval base in Sevastopol and military airports in Kacha and Simferopol, the peninsula is a strategic area for Moscow, which has troops deployed there.

March 16: Voters in Crimea overwhelmingly support reunification with Russia in a referendum that the United States and the European Union call “illegal.” Putin signs a bill to annex the peninsula and Moscow controls Ukrainian military bases. Washington, Brussels and Ottawa are banning Russian politicians and their Crimean counterparts from entering their territories in response.

April 7: War begins in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine, and pro-Russian separatists declare the independence of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic. Moscow supports and arms the rebels and many Russians join them, but the Russian Federation is not officially a participant in the conflict. Kyiv launches an operation “against terrorism” and deploys its army. It also deploys militias often associated with the far right or even the far right, such as Pravy Sektor.

May 11: Two independence referendums are held in Donetsk and Luhansk, another region of eastern Ukraine on the Russian border, and “Yes” wins by a big one. Ukraine and Western countries do not recognize the results, while Russia does.

May 25: Ukrainians elect Petro Poroshenko as president with 56 percent of the vote in the first round. The West and Moscow recognize the result. Poroshenko announced that he is working on a peace plan and issues a unilateral ceasefire on June 20, which will have very little effect in the combat zones.

June 6: French President Francois Hollande, former German chancellor Angela Merkel, Putin and Poroshenko meet in French Normandy on the sidelines of the 70th anniversary of the Allied landings. It is the first meeting between Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart since the start of the conflict in eastern Ukraine, and he has occasionally launched the “Normandy shape” four-way talks between Paris, Berlin, Moscow and Kiev.

A meeting is being held in a “Normandy format” consisting of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine. © Etienne Laurent, EPA, AFP June 27: The European Union signs an Association Agreement with Ukraine, which includes a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA). Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia would take steps to protect its economy if the new partnership had a negative impact.

September 5: The two camps sign a ceasefire in the Belarusian capital, an agreement known as the “Minsk Protocol” or “Minsk 1”. It’s almost a failure: the fighting in eastern Ukraine has subsided, but it continues.

November 2: The self-proclaimed separatist republics of Donetsk and Luhansk hold presidential elections. Alexander Zakharchenko was elected in Donetsk and Igor Plotinsky in Luhansk. Ukraine denounces the violation of the Minsk agreements, while Russia views the elections as respecting protocol.

December 23: Ukraine’s parliament votes to join NATO, much to Moscow’s dismay. Lavrov spoke of a “counterproductive” move that “creates the illusion that it will solve the deep internal crisis in Ukraine” and will only “aggravate the climate of confrontation”.

2015-2018: stalemate in conflict February 2015: With fighting and bombing resumed in eastern Ukraine since January, the leaders of Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France meet again in Belarus to enforce a new ceasefire.

In addition to the ceasefire, the February 12 agreement includes measures such as the withdrawal of heavy weapons from both sides, the return of the Ukrainian border and the withdrawal of foreign forces. Also in “Minsk 2” there is a political component providing for the recognition of some autonomy for Donetsk and Luhansk and the organization of elections within the Ukrainian framework.

Armistice periods begin after fighting erupts in the following months and years, with more ceasefires regularly signed and broken.

The October 2015 summit between European, Russian and Ukrainian leaders in Paris followed by the October 2016 summit in Berlin, without any tangible progress.

November 24, 2017: Plotinsky, the leader of the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic, resigns after taking refuge in Moscow. Leonid Pasechnik replaces him.

August 31, 2018: Alexander Zakharchenko, Pasechnik’s counterpart, is assassinated in Donetsk. He is replaced by Dennis Pushlin.

Analysts interpret both events as evidence of a Moscow takeover.

November 25, 2018: Russian forces detained three Ukrainian Navy small ships trying to pass under the Crimean Bridge, which Russia opened with great fanfare in the same year, and detained the ship’s 24-man crew. The next day, Poroshenko instituted martial law for 30 days in the Russian-speaking regions of Ukraine.

2019: Hopes for a breakthrough, gas deal May 20: Volodymyr Zelensky defeats Poroshenko to become Ukraine’s new president. Zelensky is an actor and comedian who has campaigned against corruption and for détente with Moscow, has spent most of his career in Russia and also speaks Russian.

August 18: French President Emmanuel Macron meets at Putin’s summer residence Athes at Fort Bregançon in southern France, following the first meeting of leaders at Versailles shortly after Macron’s election in 2017. The French president hopes to build a “new architecture of trust and respect.” Security in Europe ”, including Russia.

September 7: Russia releases 24 detained Ukrainian sailors and 10 other Ukrainian citizens, including director Oleg Sentsov, in a prisoner exchange. Moscow will also hand over the three Ukrainian ships to Kyiv after a few months.

October 1: Representatives of Ukraine and Russia met in Minsk under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to reach an agreement on the organization of elections in the breakaway regions of Donbass and granting them a special status. Protests broke out in Kyiv accusing Zelensky of surrendering to Moscow.

December 9: Putin and Zelensky meet for the first time at the Normandy Coordination Summit in Paris. The parties involved in the conflict in eastern Ukraine agreed to implement the ceasefire reached under the Minsk agreements before the end of the year, and to exchange prisoners.

December 31: Moscow and Kiev finalize a new five-year agreement on transporting Russian gas through Ukraine. The agreement guarantees gas supplies to Europe, which was threatened by a previous crisis in 2009. The construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline under the Baltic Sea appears to be aimed at facilitating the export of Russian gas through other routes.

2020-2022: From conflict to war June 12, 2020: NATO gives Ukraine “enhanced opportunities” to allow cooperation between NATO forces and the Kyiv army. NATO says this “does not presuppose decisions on NATO membership”. But Zelensky is pressing for the coalition to propose a membership plan.

April 1, 2021: Zelensky accused Russia of massing its forces on Ukraine’s border. Russia says the exercises are a response to Ukrainian “provocations”.

April 6, 2021: Zelensky openly declares that joining NATO is the only way to end the war in Donbass. He also declared his support for Ukraine’s accession to the European Union.

December 2021: Western countries fear an escalation after Russia conducted another large-scale military exercise near the Ukrainian border in November. Putin has stated security demands including ensuring that Ukraine never joins NATO and the withdrawal of NATO forces from the former Soviet Union.

US President Joe Biden has threatened sanctions in the event of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, saying Nord Stream 2 could be used as “leverage”. The European Union is also ready to impose sanctions on Moscow.

January-February 2022: A period of intense diplomacy yielded no immediate results. NATO refuses to budge on its policy of letting countries decide whether they want to join, while Moscow continues to demand guarantees that Ukraine will never do so.

February 20: The Elysee Palace issued a statement that Putin and Biden had accepted, in principle, a summit on Ukraine, but the Kremlin considers the later announcement “premature”. In a televised evening address, Putin announced recognition of the independence of the self-declared breakaway republics of eastern Ukraine and ordered Russian “peacekeepers” to enter them.

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