General opinion has formed that the Ukranian conflict in 2015 was not with Ukranian separatists at all, but with the Russian Federation itself, which relied heavily on military subterfuge and creating shadow puppets to press their political and economic agenda. It is tough for Westerners to truly understand the conflict in the region, as Russia's journalistic integrity is almost entirely suppressed within the media, but some facts are impossible to bury.
The Beginning of Conflict
The roots of the Ukraine-Russia crisis date back to the Orange Revolution in November 2004, in the aftermath of which Ukraine's foreign policy took a significant shift in orientation from Russia to the West. At that time, thousands of Ukrainians engaged in demonstrations protesting presidential election results when Viktor Yanukovych was elected president. The protestors claimed that the results of the election were fraudulent, due to mass violations of protocol, and were fabricated by pro-Russia influencers. These demonstrators supported the candidacy of Viktor Yushchenko, a politician who leaned heavily toward Western policies and closer relations with the U.S.
Thus, over the 2 months from 22nd November 2004 to 23rd January 2005, the mass protests split the Ukraine population into two parts: the western part, which actively supported Yushchenko, and the eastern part which supported Russia-oriented politician Yanukovych. Much has happened since then, but it is considered that Eastern Ukraine is now an unofficial state of the Russian Federation.
The Poisoning of Yushchenko
The first round of the battle for Ukraine looked like a win for the West after the 2004 election of Viktor Yushchenko as president of Ukraine. Yushchenko, as expected, took a political course that was more aligned with the policies of the EU and the U.S. His administration seemed aimed at gaining more political independence and having more collaboration with the EU and other western countries, in the hopes that this would have led to a greater integration of the Ukraine into the European and western community. The Ukraine's relationship with Russia thus remained cold during Yushchenko's term.
Yushchenko was poisoned with dioxin – the most lethal compound in Agent Orange – during his election campaign in 2004 that Russia was generally held responsible. If these allegations were true, then it would be confirmation that Russia was willing to resort to extreme acts to retain control of one of the countries under its authority. Public opinion on the matter leaned toward Russian involvement, and was met with retaliation.
Revenge of Russia With An Old Figure – Yanukovych
Yushchenko thus could not be re-elected for a second term in the 2010 presidential elections, which was confirmed to be fair by international observers. Predictably, with the election of Viktor Yanukovych, the Ukrainian-Russian political relationship was re-established. Russia seemed to recover its authority over Ukraine, which proved a decisive move as before his election, Russia was relying too heavily on military subterfuge and less on shadow puppets to press their political and economic agenda. (See More: How Russia Makes Its Money -- And Why It Doesn't Make More.)
Next steps from EU
The EU offered an association agreement to some Eastern Europe countries, namely Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia, which certainly upset Russia, because signing such an association agreement would further integrate these countries into the EU. This would also result in the weakening of Russian authority over these countries in the long run.
As a result of pressure from the Russian government, the Ukrainian president at that time, Yanukovych, refused to sign the final agreement and Russia instead offered Ukraine a place in the Custom Union – an organization founded by Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan. The resulting protests in reaction to these developments are described as a second Orange Revolution and led to Yanukovych fleeing from the country.
The Russian response was immediate – Russia annexed Crimea, a territory of Ukraine, and as has been previously stated, is suspected of organizing and arming the separatists which had been engaging in armed conflicts, one of them being the shooting down of a civil aircraft belonging to Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, which resulted in 298 deaths. A Western coalition responded to this action that's been attributed to Russia by applying economic sanctions, which combined with the effects of falling oil prices, brought the Russian economy close to collapse. (To learn more about the effects of these sanctions on Russia, see the article: How U.S. And European Sanctions Impact Russia.)
On February 11, 2015 Normandy format negotiations were held in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, to bring about a cease-fire between Ukrainian troops and the separatists. Then French president Francoise Hollande, former German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko and Russian president Vladimir Putin held negotiations for more than 16 hours, after which President Putin declared: “It was not the best night in my life but the morning...we have managed to agree on the main things despite all the difficulties of the negotiations”. The resolutions emerging from the Normandy format negotiations, however, did not mention anything about Crimea. It seems it will be very hard if not impossible for Ukraine to regain Crimea, especially considering its annexation into the Russian Federation in 2014.
The Bottom Line
Ukrainian politicians' actions, aimed at shifting the orientation of the countries' political course and policies from Russia to the West, caused disastrous results for the country. Ukraine lost part of its territory and became embroiled in a civil war that many believe has not only been fueled but orchestrated by Russia. The conflict not only armed the country's economy, but has also negatively affected the economy of the whole region.