This past week, Russia flooded around 25,000 troops into the military base at Crimea, a Ukrainian republic. As a result of their military action, an emergency U.N. Security Council met to discuss diplomatic solutions. Any action proposed by the Security Council may be vetoed by Russia, a permanent member of the council.
Meanwhile in Crimea, the Crimean prime minister stated that Ukrainian troops also stationed on the peninsula have started to surrender and pledge allegiance to the large Russian military presence.
Although Russian President Vladimir Putin states that the Russian troops are present simply as “self-defense forces,” Russian soldiers are preventing Ukrainian forces to retake the Balbek airbase. After negotiations, the Russians and Ukrainians agreed to joint patrols for the airbase. According to The Wall Street Journal, Col. Yuli Mamchur is still “awaiting better results.”
While Russia states that their military presence is for the protection of the people from what Putin calls an “unconstitutional coup,” the new Ukrainian government in Kiev has stated to the U.N. Security council that the strong Russian presence in Crimea “threatened Ukraine’s territorial integrity.”
Putin claims that Russian troops will only intercede to protect their neighbors.
“It [military intervention] will be legitimate and correspond to international law because we have a direct request from a legitimate president and it corresponds to our interests in protecting people who are close to us,” said Putin in a statement.
The strong Russian presence in Crimea is a result of the deadly protests that have been taking place over the past months.
The protests that have been taking place since Nov. 21 took a deadly turn as demonstrators stood, and continue to stand, in order to defend what they believe is the single promise for a bright future in Ukraine.
“I think that people are once again fed up with the widespread corruption and hardship, which has always been a part of life there,” said Melanie Westpetal, ORU alumna and Ukraine native. “And the Ukrainian people have more than enough tenacity to see this through. All I know is that if real change can be accomplished by these protests, the people will stick it out as long as they have to.”
The demonstrations began when former Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanukovich, refused to sign an agreement that would integrate the nation with the European Union [EU]. This agreement would allow the country more economic freedom and ease of trade. According to businessinsider.com, this decision was made due to economic pressure from Russian President Vladimir Putin.
These protests later became violent when the Ukrainian government passed laws restricting the right to protest. Although the laws have been recanted, protests are still being met with violent resistance.
Before moving to Tulsa, Westpetal used to live 20 minutes from the square where the lethal protests are occurring.
Westpetal has many friends and family still living in Kiev who support the protesters. Many of them have attended demonstrations in the square. According to Westpetal’s friends, “it was the only hope for their country.”
Westpetal remains cautious about the freedom of the Ukraine after the protesting ends.
“I’m mostly worried about what life will be like after it all blows over,” said Westpetal. “If the beginnings of this protest were any indication, the government may find new ways to limit basic freedoms.”