Despite a history of being dominated by Russia, Ukraine is still a country with its own unique identity. While the Soviet Union is no longer in power, Ukraine continues to share culture, ideas, and even a language with Russia. Ukrainian cuisine also shares characteristics with other neighboring countries. Among its best-known foods are borsch, a beetroot soup, and varennyky, a dumpling filled with minced meat.
Ukraine was a member of the former Soviet Union for several decades, but its independence was achieved in 1991. In the years leading up to the invasion, Ukraine had begun to ally itself with NATO and the European Union. The country was also a member of the United States’ trade and investment council. In addition, many Ukrainians see the United States as Ukraine’s primary security partner. Despite this, Ukraine still maintains a long history of tension with its neighbor to the east.
In late August, Ukraine launched a major counteroffensive against the Russian military, which marked a major setback for Russia. Ukrainian forces reclaimed thousands of square miles of territory in Kharkiv and Kherson regions. The stalwart resistance of Ukrainian forces has been a critical factor in slowing down the Russian military.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has been a longtime proponent of annexing Crimea, which he claims was stolen from Russia. The Kremlin has also supported separatists in Donbass, an armed insurgency against the Ukrainian military. Putin has also sent unidentified armed men to occupy Crimean airports. He has also threatened to use nuclear weapons to defend territory. However, most security analysts see little chance of diplomacy in the months ahead.
While Putin has long claimed that Crimea was stolen from Russia, current historical scholarship disputes this assertion. In fact, the Kyivan Rus people were Scandinavian traders who became Russia’s namesake. After the Soviet Union collapsed, Ukraine and Russia established testy relations. In the 1980s, Ukraine began to sign agreements with the European Union, the United States, and other countries. In 2010, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych won elections, but he later backed away from talks with the EU. In 2013, Yanukovych began to become more authoritarian. The election of a TV star, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, in early 2019 was a sign of public dissatisfaction with the political establishment.
In February of 2022, Russia launched an invasion of Ukraine. Russian forces crossed into Ukraine from three directions, and two hundred thousand troops attempted to seize major cities in Kyiv. Putin justified the invasion as a rescue operation. However, the annexation posed a serious threat to Ukraine, as Putin claimed the territory was Russian.
Russia claimed that the Pereiaslav Agreement, which was signed between het’man Bohdan Khmelnytskyi and tsar Alexei I of the Tsardom of Muscovy in 1654, was an agreement to reunify Ukraine with Russia. However, historians have disagreed on whether the Pereiaslav Agreement actually recognized Ukraine’s independence. In fact, the agreement only recognized Ukrainian independence for a brief period of time. The United States, the United Kingdom, and Russia subsequently pledged their support to Ukraine’s efforts to become a non-nuclear state.