Ukraine has been attempting to become independent for over three decades and has recently sought closer ties with Western institutions. The country’s government has struggled to strike a balance between internal divisions and foreign policy. The annexation of Crimea in 2014 has exacerbated tensions and the relationship with Russia has soured as a result. Ukraine’s current foreign policy strategy is to focus on the economy and to bolster Western relations. This will require more dialogue and cooperation between Ukraine and the West, and more European integration is likely to follow.
In the 9th century, Kievan Rus’ emerged as a major power in the region. However, a Mongol invasion in the thirteenth century wiped out much of the region. After the destruction of Kievan Rus’, other external powers sought to gain control of the area. In the 17th century, the Cossack Hetmanate erupted in central Ukraine and was partitioned by Poland and Russia. Ultimately, the country became part of the Russian Empire. The Russians’ expansionist policies continued until the 19th century, when Ukrainian nationalism began to grow.
Although Ukraine has maintained its independence from the Soviet Union, Russia has broad interests in the region. The Russian-Ukrainian conflict could potentially destabilize the geopolitical landscape of Europe. While the Ukrainian government has managed to thwart many aspects of Russia’s aggression, one-quarter of its population is now refugees or internally displaced. The future of Ukraine and its alignment with the institutions it recognizes hangs in the balance. This crisis is not the end of the world.
The Ukrainian government must continue to adhere to international law and protect civilians. While NATO membership is unlikely to happen anytime soon, Ukraine can take steps to cooperate and get closer to NATO’s standards and values. In the meantime, it must ensure that it welcomes neighbors fleeing the conflict zone in Ukraine. A welcoming reception environment must be in place for the refugees, as well as access to asylum. With these actions, Ukraine will continue to demonstrate its commitment to its citizens and its neighbors.
A new draft bill on hate crimes in Ukraine proposes extending the definition of such crimes to include a wider range of incidents. Despite these advances, abuses of homosexuals and lesbians continue. The SBU’s practice of secret prisons has been officially denied, and an ongoing investigation has failed to identify even one individual suspected of perpetrating a hate crime. The lack of justice in Ukraine has resulted in the suppression of freedom of speech and a sense of community.
The new law has removed legal obstacles to the prosecution of people accused of domestic violence. It also strengthens provisions underlying emergency protection orders. It has also extended the statute of limitations for domestic violence to six months. New penalties for violence against women include detention for up to ten days and compulsory labour. In addition to these new laws, IRC has also called on world leaders and international donors to prioritize services for women and support them in their humanitarian response to the crisis in Ukraine.