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Ukraine: "Global" Episode Seven

In our seventh episode of "Global,"  we are talking with United States Senator and IRI Chairman John McCain, Ukrainian Parliament Member Hanna Hopko and IRI’s Director for Eurasia Stephen Nix. Here's our behind-the-scenes blog with related media and some fast facts.

Q: Hanna Hopko has quite a remarkable resume for someone her age. Can you tell me more about her?

A: Hanna Hopko is a 35-year-old member of the Ukrainian Parliament, where she is head of the Foreign Affairs Committee. She also is a member of the executive committee of reforms for the National Council of Reforms and the Anti-Corruption Action Centre (AntAC). She has been active in efforts to make Ukraine more democratic and less corrupt, through various pro-democratic civic movements throughout her adult life, before being elected to parliament in October 2014.

Q: Sam mentions the Orange Revolution. Could you provide more background?

A: The Orange Revolution was a series of protests that took place in Ukraine from late November 2004 to January 2005 over the 2004 presidential election. The protests began after reports from several domestic and foreign election monitors that the results of the run-off vote of November 21, 2004 between leading candidates Viktor Yushchenko and Viktor Yanukovych were rigged by the authorities in favor of Yanukovych. With widespread allegations of corruption, voter intimidation, and electoral fraud, hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians took to Kyiv’s main square and other major cities to voice their frustrations. The nationwide protests succeeded when the results of the original run-off were annulled, and a revote was ordered by Ukraine's Supreme Court for 26 December 2004. As a result of the revote, Yushchenko was declared the winner, having received 52 percent of the vote in an election largely seen as free and fair. He was sworn in on January 23, 2005.

Q: Where is Crimea, and why is it in the news?

A: Crimea is a major peninsula on the northern coast of the Black Sea. Having been a part of the Ottoman Empire for centuries, it later became a part of the Russian Empire in 1783, and while under the Soviet Union it was transferred in 1954 from Russian to Ukrainian administration control as a sign of friendship between Russians and Ukrainians. To this day, Crimea is home to several ethnic groups, including Ukrainians, Russians, and Tatars—a Turkic Muslim minority constituting nearly 12 percent of the peninsula’s population.

In response to Ukraine’s 2013-2014 Revolution of Dignity and the subsequent fleeing of Ukraine’s pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych, the Russian Federation took control of the peninsula with unmarked forces and local militias. While under illegal occupation by these forces, the people of Crimea were then forced to vote in a referendum on March 16 on the fate of the peninsula; however, the option to maintain the status quo (i.e., leaving Crimea as a part of Ukraine) was not included on the ballot. It was reported that 97 percent of voters favored integration of Crimea into the Russian Federation, with a turnout of 83 percent; however, these results are highly disputed and not seen as credible. In fact, the referendum is considered illegitimate and is not recognized by most countries including all European Union members, the United States, and Canada.

Q: Steve Nix mentions polling done in Crimea. Where can I find that poll?

A: Click HERE to look at IRI’s last poll conducted in Crimea in October 2013, six months prior to Russia’s illegal occupation and annexation of the peninsula.

Q: The Donbas region in Ukraine is mentioned in the podcast. Where is it located and why is it important?

A: The Donbas region is located in eastern Ukraine and refers to the two regions (i.e., oblasts) of Donetsk and Luhansk. Following Ukraine’s 2013-2014 Revolution of Dignity and Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March 2014, pro-Russian protests supported by Russia spread throughout the two regions that later resulted in the declaration of the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics. Ukraine’s efforts to retake these territories, which are now occupied by Russian troops and Russian-backed separatists, has been bloody. Since the war in eastern Ukraine began, more than 10,000 people have been killed and more than 1.7 million people have been displaced from their homes. Russia’s president Vladimir Putin has repeatedly denied a military presence in the Donbas, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Q: At the end of the podcast Sam mentions the Budapest Memorandum. Can you tell me more about it?

A: The Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances is important because it resulted in Ukraine (along with Belarus and Kazakhstan) giving up its nuclear weapons following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Prior to this document being created, which was signed in Budapest, Hungary in December 1994, Ukraine had the third largest nuclear stockpile in the world. In exchange for giving up their weapons, Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan were given security assurances from the United States, the United Kingdom and Russia against threats or use of force against their territorial integrity or political independence. Since the invasions of Crimea and eastern Ukraine in 2014, the international community has failed to uphold its security commitments to Ukraine.

Learn more about IRI's work in Ukraine by reading THIS blog!