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  1. Ukraine officially declared itself an independent country on 24 August 1991, when the communist Supreme Soviet (parliament) of Ukraine proclaimed that Ukraine would no longer follow the laws of USSR and only the laws of the Ukrainian SSR, de facto declaring Ukraine's independence from the Soviet Union.

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  3. Mar 8, 2022 · In 1991, at the beginning of the end of the Soviet Union, Ukraine declared independence after nearly 70 years under Moscow's control. And when Russian President Vladimir Putin took power a decade...

    • Overview
    • Independent Ukraine
    • Postindependence issues
    • Kuchma’s presidency
    • The Orange Revolution and the Yushchenko presidency
    • The Yanukovych presidency
    • The Maidan protest movement

    The population of Ukraine voted overwhelmingly for independence in the referendum of December 1, 1991. (About 84 percent of eligible voters turned out for the referendum, and about 90 percent of them endorsed independence.) In an election coinciding with the referendum, Kravchuk was chosen as president. By this time, several important developments ...

    The population of Ukraine voted overwhelmingly for independence in the referendum of December 1, 1991. (About 84 percent of eligible voters turned out for the referendum, and about 90 percent of them endorsed independence.) In an election coinciding with the referendum, Kravchuk was chosen as president. By this time, several important developments ...

    Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Ukraine was commonly regarded as the former Soviet republic (outside of those in the Baltic region) with the best chance of achieving economic prosperity and integration with Europe as a whole. But by the end of the 20th century, the Ukrainian economy had faltered badly, and social and political change...

    Parliamentary and presidential elections were held in Ukraine in 1994. In the first contest, candidates affiliated with the revived Communist Party emerged as the largest single group, winning approximately one-fifth of the seats. Factoring in the deputies of the Socialist and Agrarian parties, the latter of which drew its support from rural interests and farmers, the left now constituted a strong—although not united—bloc in the new parliament. In the presidential election the incumbent president, Kravchuk, was narrowly defeated by former prime minister Kuchma, who promised economic reform and better relations with Russia. The two contests seemed to reveal a political polarization between eastern and western Ukraine. Kuchma and the left received their greatest support from the more heavily industrialized and Russophone regions of eastern Ukraine, whereas Kravchuk did particularly well in western Ukraine, where Ukrainian speakers and national democrats predominated. Nevertheless, the minimal number of irregularities in the elections and the peaceful replacement of the president were widely interpreted as signs that democracy was taking root in Ukraine.

    Once in office, Kuchma maintained many of his predecessor’s policies. Significantly, while seeking more cordial relations with Moscow, he did not reorient Ukraine’s foreign policy northward. Ukraine continued to participate in the CIS but in much the same manner as it had previously. Moreover, Kuchma maintained Ukraine’s pro-Western policies and aspirations. In 1994 Ukraine joined the Partnership for Peace Programme run by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO); the country also established a “special partnership” with the organization in 1996. In 1995 Ukraine joined the Council of Europe.

    Kuchma faced a major challenge in dealing with a strong parliamentary opposition, particularly in respect to economic reform. Ukraine managed to achieve macroeconomic stabilization by 1996, the year in which it introduced its long-awaited currency, the hryvnya. However, the economy continued to perform poorly through the end of the decade. Cumbersome bureaucratic procedures and unenforced economic legislation led business to be both overregulated and rife with corruption. In addition, the country was able to attract only a limited amount of foreign investment. The Russian economic crisis of 1998 negatively affected Ukraine’s economy as well. But in 1999 the introduction of tax-reform measures saw a growth in the number of small private businesses established or emerging from the country’s significant shadow economy. At the turn of the 21st century the legitimate economy began to grow.

    In the 1998 parliamentary elections the Communist Party actually improved its showing. In the 1999 presidential election, however, Kuchma defeated Communist Party leader Petro Symonenko by a resounding margin. Politically, Kuchma had benefited from the splintering of the left among several candidates. He also had campaigned vigorously, using all the means available to him, particularly the media. Indeed, a strong bias in favour of Kuchma became evident in the television coverage of the election. International observers were critical of Kuchma’s handling of the media and some obvious electoral irregularities. His margin of victory, however, indicated that these factors alone had not determined the outcome of the vote.

    The result of the 1999 election was significant in two respects. First, it represented a rejection of the communist past. Some observers remarked that it even constituted a second referendum on independence. Second, the vote did not split neatly along geographical lines, indicating that—for that moment at least—the east-west divide seen in the 1994 elections was not as important a factor in Ukrainian politics as many analysts had suggested. Andrij Makuch During Kuchma’s second term, conflicts between right- and left-wing forces sometimes threatened political stability. Nevertheless, newly appointed prime minister Viktor Yushchenko shepherded economic reforms through the legislature. The economy grew steadily in the first years of the 21st century, but the political situation remained tense in Ukraine as it sought membership in NATO and the European Union (EU) while also pursuing closer relations with Russia—a delicate balancing act. In 2003 Ukraine accepted in principle a proposal to establish a “joint economic space” with Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan; however, Ukrainian-Russian relations were strained by Russian accusations of deteriorating conditions for the Russian minority in Ukraine, along with Ukrainian concerns over what it viewed to be Russian expansionist designs in Crimea.

    Yushchenko became an opposition leader following his dismissal as prime minister in 2001. The following year, audio tapes allegedly revealed Kuchma’s approval of the sale of a radar system to Iraq, in violation of a United Nations Security Council resolution, and implicated him in the assassination of a dissident journalist in 2000. Opposition groups called for the impeachment of Kuchma, who denied the allegations.

    The presidential election of 2004 brought Ukraine to the brink of disintegration and civil war. Cleared to seek a third term as president by the Constitutional Court, Kuchma instead endorsed the candidacy of Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, who was also strongly supported by Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin. Yushchenko—running on an anticorruption, anticronyism platform—emerged as the leading opposition candidate, but his campaign was prevented from visiting Yanukovych’s stronghold of Donetsk and other eastern cities. In September Yushchenko’s health began to fail, and medical tests later revealed he had suffered dioxin poisoning (allegedly carried out by the Ukrainian State Security Service), which left his face disfigured. In the first round of the presidential election, on October 31, Yushchenko and Yanukovych both won about two-fifths of the vote. In the runoff the following month, Yanukovych was declared the winner, though Yushchenko’s supporters charged fraud and staged mass protests that came to be known as the Orange Revolution. Protestors clad in orange, Yushchenko’s campaign colour, took to the streets, and the country endured nearly two weeks of demonstrations. Yanukovych’s supporters in the east threatened to secede from Ukraine if the results were annulled. Nevertheless, on December 3 the Supreme Court ruled the election invalid and ordered a new runoff for December 26. Yushchenko subsequently defeated Yanukovych by garnering some 52 percent of the vote. Although Yanukovych challenged the validity of the results, Yushchenko was inaugurated on January 23, 2005.

    Political turmoil occupied the first few years of Yushchenko’s presidency. His first cabinet served only until September 2005, when he dismissed all his ministers, including Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko, a fellow leader of the Orange Revolution. The next prime minister, Yury Yekhanurov, stayed in office only until January 2006. Parliamentary elections early that year saw Yushchenko’s Our Ukraine party finish third, behind Yanukovych’s Party of Regions and the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc. When a proposed coalition of the so-called Orange parties in the parliament fell apart, Yushchenko was forced to accept his rival Yanukovych as prime minister. The ensuing power struggle between the president and the prime minister, whose political role had been enhanced by a constitutional reform that took effect in 2006, led Yushchenko to call for another round of parliamentary elections in 2007. Once again the president’s party finished behind both Yanukovych’s and Tymoshenko’s parties. This time, however, a coalition with the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc held together, allowing the pro-Western Orange parties to form a government with Tymoshenko as prime minister. As the government continued to balance the often conflicting goals of maintaining positive relations with Russia and gaining membership in the EU, dissent between Yushchenko and Tymoshenko contributed to the collapse of their coalition in September 2008. In October the president dissolved parliament. Parliamentary elections, at first scheduled for December, later were canceled, and Yushchenko’s and Tymoshenko’s parties agreed to form a new coalition, together with the smaller Lytvyn Bloc, headed by Volodymyr Lytvyn.

    The next presidential election, held on January 17, 2010, confirmed the political demise of President Yushchenko, who received only about 5 percent of the vote. The top two candidates, Yanukovych and Tymoshenko, garnered about 35 and 25 percent, respectively. Because neither had won a majority of votes, a runoff poll was held on February 7. The runoff results were split largely along regional lines, with most of western Ukraine supporting Tymoshenko and most of the east favouring Yanukovych. Winning 48.95 percent of the vote—a narrow lead over Tymoshenko’s 45.47 percent—Yanukovych took the presidency. Although international observers determined that the poll had been fair, Tymoshenko declared the results fraudulent and refused to recognize Yanukovych’s victory; she and her supporters boycotted the inauguration of Yanukovych on February 25. The following week Tymoshenko’s government was felled by a vote of no confidence and Mykola Azarov of the Party of Regions was installed as prime minister. President Yanukovych gained greater executive authority later in 2010 when the Constitutional Court overturned the 2006 reform that had enhanced the powers of the prime minister.

    In April 2010, following a fractious parliamentary debate, Ukraine agreed to extend Russia’s lease of the port at Sevastopol, originally set to expire in 2017, until 2042. In exchange, Ukraine would receive a reduction in the price of Russian natural gas. The Ukrainian government further improved relations with Russia in June 2010, when it officially abandoned its goal of joining NATO—a pursuit Russia had opposed. As the Yanukovych administration continued its pivot toward Moscow, EU leaders expressed concern about the preservation of the rule of law in Ukraine.

    In 2011 former prime minister Tymoshenko, the country’s most popular politician, was convicted of abuse of power in connection with a 2009 natural gas deal with Russia and given a seven-year prison sentence. In February 2012 Tymoshenko’s interior minister, Yuri Lutsenko, also was convicted of abuse of power and sentenced to four years in prison. Many observers believed both trials were politically motivated. When Ukraine cohosted the UEFA European Championship football (soccer) tournament in summer 2012, a number of EU countries registered their concern for Tymoshenko by boycotting the event.

    In the parliamentary election in October 2012, the ruling Party of Regions emerged as the single largest bloc, with 185 seats. Tymoshenko’s Fatherland party claimed 101 seats, Vitali Klitschko’s Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reforms (UDAR) won 40 seats, and the ultranationalist Svoboda (“Freedom”) party had a surprisingly strong showing, winning 37 seats. Challenging the validity of the results, Tymoshenko embarked on a hunger strike. Although international observers called attention to irregularities in some contests, the European Parliament characterized the election as comparatively fair, and the main opposition parties accepted the official results. In December 2012 sitting Prime Minister Azarov formed a government with the support of Communist and independent deputies. In what was widely seen as an attempt to thaw relations with the EU, Yanukovych pardoned the imprisoned Lutsenko and ordered his release in April 2013.

    Ukraine’s pro-European trajectory was abruptly halted in November 2013, when a planned association agreement with the EU was scuttled just days before it was scheduled to be signed. The accord would have more closely integrated political and economic ties between the EU and Ukraine, but Yanukovych bowed to intense pressure from Moscow. Street protests erupted in Kyiv, and Lutsenko and Klitschko emerged as the leaders of the largest demonstrations since the Orange Revolution. Police violently dispersed crowds in Kyiv’s Maidan Nezalezhnosti (“Independence Square”), and, as the protests continued into December, demonstrators occupied Kyiv’s city hall and called on Yanukovych to resign. Russia, in turn, offered to cut the price of natural gas and purchase $15 billion in Ukrainian bonds to prop up the country’s faltering economy.

    As demonstrations gave way to rioting in January 2014, Yanukovych signed a series of laws restricting the right to protest, and hundreds of thousands took to the streets of Kyiv in response. Bloody clashes between police and protesters ensued, with dozens injured on each side. On January 22 two protesters were killed in skirmishes with police, and demonstrations soon spread to eastern Ukraine, a region that traditionally had supported Yanukovych and closer ties with Russia. Protesters occupied the justice ministry in Kyiv, and the parliament hastily repealed the anti-protest measures. As discussions continued between Yanukovych and opposition leaders, Azarov tendered his resignation as prime minister.

    In February hundreds of protesters were released from jail as part of an amnesty deal that led to the evacuation of demonstrators from government buildings. The thaw in tensions was short-lived, however, as opposition parliamentarians were rebuffed in their attempts to limit the powers of the presidency, and the battle in the streets took a deadly turn. More than 20 were killed and hundreds were wounded when government forces attempted to retake the Maidan on February 18. The 25,000 protesters remaining in the square ringed their encampment with bonfires in an attempt to forestall another assault. Protesters in the western Ukrainian cities of Lviv and Ivano-Frankivsk seized government buildings, and EU officials threatened sanctions against Ukraine unless the Yanukovych administration took steps to de-escalate the violence. The proposed truce failed to materialize, and on February 20 violence in Kyiv escalated dramatically, with police and government security forces firing on crowds of protesters. Scores were killed, hundreds were injured, and EU leaders made good on their promise to enact sanctions against Ukraine. Central government control continued to erode in western Ukraine, as opposition forces occupied police stations and government offices in Lutsk, Uzhhorod, and Ternopil.

    The bloodiest week in Ukraine’s post-Soviet history concluded on February 21 with an EU-brokered agreement between Yanukovych and opposition leaders that called for early elections and the formation of an interim unity government. The parliament responded by overwhelmingly approving the restoration of the 2004 constitution, thus reducing the power of the presidency. In subsequent votes, the parliament approved a measure granting full amnesty to protesters, fired internal affairs minister Vitaliy Zakharchenko for his role in ordering the crackdown on the Maidan, and decriminalized elements of the legal code under which Tymoshenko had been prosecuted. Yanukovych, his power base crumbling, fled the capital ahead of an impeachment vote that stripped him of his powers as president. Meanwhile, Tymoshenko, who had been released from prison, traveled to Kyiv, where she delivered an impassioned speech to the crowd assembled in the Maidan. Fatherland deputy leader Oleksandr Turchynov was appointed acting president, a move that Yanukovych decried as a coup d’état. On February 24 the interim government charged Yanukovych with mass murder in connection with the deaths of the Maidan protesters and issued a warrant for his arrest.

  4. These marked the onset of Galicia-Volhynia’s decline, which continued until the extinction of Roman’s dynasty in 1340. Ukraine - Soviet Union, Independence, Revolution: From prehistoric times, migration and settlement patterns in the territories of present-day Ukraine varied fundamentally along the lines of three geographic zones.

  5. Feb 12, 2022 · As Russian forces begin an all-out assault on Ukraine after months of troop buildup and failed diplomatic efforts by the U.S. and its European allies to head off conflict, the situation for Kyiv...

    • Becky Sullivan
  6. Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, Ukraine became an independent state, formalized with a referendum. With the enlargement of the European Union in 2004, Ukraine became an area of overlapping spheres of influence between the European Union and the Russian Federation in the post-Soviet era.

  7. Independent Ukraine. The population of Ukraine voted overwhelmingly for independence in the referendum of December 1, 1991. (About 84 percent of eligible voters turned out for the referendum, and about 90 percent of them endorsed independence.) In an election coinciding with the referendum, Kravchuk was chosen as president.

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