Russia–Ukraine relations

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Russia–Ukraine relations
Map indicating locations of Russia and Ukraine



The bilateral relationship between the Russian Federation and Ukraine formally started in the 1990s immediately upon the dissolution of the Soviet Union, of which both Russia and Ukraine had been founding constituent republics.

Interactions between the two areas of Russia and Ukraine developed on a formal basis from the 17th century (note the Treaty of Pereyaslav between Moscow and Bohdan Khmelnytsky's cossacks in 1654), but international-level relations ceased when Catherine the Great liquidated the autonomy of the Cossack Hetmanate in 1764. For a short period of time soon after the communist 1917 October Revolution two states interacted again.

In 1920 Soviet Russian forces overran Ukraine and relations between the two states transitioned from international to internal ones within the Soviet Union, founded in 1922. After the Soviet Union's dissolution in 1991, Russia and Ukraine have undergone periods of ties, tensions, and outright hostility.

On 10 February 2015, in response to Russian military intervention, the parliament of Ukraine registered a draft decree on suspending diplomatic relations with Russian Federation.[1] Although this suspension did not materialize, Ukrainian official Dmytro Kuleba (Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the Council of Europe) acknowledged early April 2016 that diplomatic relations had been reduced "almost to zero".[2] Late 2017 Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin stated that "there are no diplomatic relations with Russia in terms of content".[3]

On 5 October 2016 the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine officially recommended that its citizens avoid any type of travel to Russia or transit through its territory. The Ministry cited Russian law enforcers' growing number of groundless arrests of Ukrainian citizens who are allegedly often "rudely treated using illegal methods of physical and psychological pressure, torture and other acts violating human rights and dignity".[4][5]

Russia has an embassy in Kyiv and consulates in Kharkiv, Lviv, and Odesa. Ukraine has an embassy in Moscow and consulates in Rostov-on-Don, Saint Petersburg, Yekaterinburg, Tyumen and Vladivostok. Ukraine recalled its ambassador to Russia in March 2014.[6][7] Since then, Ukraine’s highest diplomatic representation in Russia has been its temporary chargé d'affaires.[8] Similarly, since July 2016, after the Russian ambassador to Ukraine was relieved, Russia's highest diplomatic representation in Ukraine has also been its temporary chargé d'affaires.[8]

Prior to Euromaidan (2013-2014), under Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych (in office from February 2010 to February 2014), relations were cooperative, with various trade agreements in place.[9][10][11][12] After the 2014 Ukrainian Revolution, which saw the pro-Russian Yanukovych ousted on 21 February 2014, relations between Russia and Ukraine deteriorated rapidly: significant corruption of pro-Russian government members, forced one-decade russification and pressure on Ukrainian language in eastern parts of Ukraine and Crimea have been uncovered;[citation needed] Throughout March and April 2014, pro-Russian unrest spread in Ukraine, with pro-Russian groups proclaiming "People's Republics" in the oblasts of Donetsk and Luhansk, as of 2017 both partially outside the control of the Ukrainian government. In response, Ukraine initiated multiple international-court litigations against Russia, as well as suspending all types of military cooperation and military exports.[13] On 20 April 2016 Ukraine established a separate government department - the Ministry of Temporarily Occupied Territories and Internally displaced persons. Many countries and international organizations applied sanctions against the Russian Federation and against Ukrainian citizens involved in and responsible for the escalation.

Military clashes between pro-Russian rebels (backed by Russian military) and the Armed Forces of Ukraine began in the east of Ukraine in April 2014. On 5 September 2014 the Ukrainian government and representatives of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic and Luhansk People's Republic signed a tentative truce (ceasefire - the agreement).[14] The ceasefire imploded amidst intense new fighting in January 2015. A new ceasefire agreement has operated since mid-February 2015, but this agreement also failed to stop the fighting.[15][16][17][18][19][20][21] In January 2018 the Ukrainian parliament passed a law defining areas seized by the Donetsk People's Republic and Luhansk People's Republic as "temporarily occupied by Russia", the law also called Russia an "aggressor" state.[22]

Some[quantify] analysts[which?] believe that the current Russian leadership is determined to prevent an equivalent of the Ukrainian Orange Revolution in Russia. This perspective is supposed[by whom?] to explain not only Russian domestic policy but also Moscow's sensitivity to events abroad.[23] Many[quantify] in Ukraine and beyond[where?] believe that Russia has periodically used its vast energy resources to bully its smaller neighbours, but the Russian government argues that internal squabbling amongst Ukraine's political elite caused energy-supply disputes.[24] The conflict in Ukraine and the alleged role of Russia in it greatly escalated tensions in the relationship between Russia and major Western powers, especially relations between Russia and the United States of America. The situation caused some observers to characterize frostiness in 2014 as assuming an adversarial nature, or presaging the advent of Cold War II and World War III.[25][26][27]

Country comparison

Russian Federation
Coat of Arms 130px Lesser Coat of Arms of Ukraine.svg
Flag Russia Ukraine
Population 146267288 42539010
Area 17075400 km2 (6592800 sq mi) 603500 km2 (233000 sq mi)
Population Density 8/km2 (21/sq mi) 73.8/km2 (191/sq mi)
Time zones 9 1
Exclusive economic zone 8095881 km2 (3125837 sq mi) 6805586 km2 (2627651 sq mi)
Capital Moscow Kiev
Largest City Moscow (pop. 11503501, 15500100 Metro) Kiev (pop. 2900920, 3375000 Metro)
Government Federal semi-presidential
constitutional republic
Unitary semi-presidential
constitutional republic
Official language Russian (de facto and de jure) Ukrainian (de facto and de jure)
Main religions 71% Orthodox[28]
13% non-religious
10% Islam
>1% unaffiliated Christian
2% other Orthodox
>1% other religions (2017 Census)
60,7% Christianity
35,2% non-Religious
0.6% Islam
3.3% Other
Ethnic group 80.90% Russians
8.75% Turkic peoples
3.96% other Indo-Europeans
3.78% Caucasians
1.76% Finno-Ugric and Mongolian peoples and others
77.8% Ukrainians
17.3% Russians
4.9% others/unspecified
GDP (PPP) by the IMF $3373 billion [29] $347.88 billion [29]
GDP (nominal) by the IMF $1267.754 billion [30] $87.198 billion [30]

History of relations

Kievan Rus'

Russia and Ukraine share much of their history. Kiev, the modern capital of Ukraine, is often referred[peacock term][by whom?] to as a mother of Russian Cities or a cradle of the Rus' civilisation owing to the once powerful Kievan Rus' state, a predecessor of both Russian and Ukrainian nations.[31]

Muscovy and Russian Empire

After the Mongol invasion of Rus the histories of the Russian and Ukrainian people's started to diverge.[32] The former, having successfully united all the remnants of the Rus' northern provinces, swelled into a powerful Russian state. The latter came under the domination of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, followed by the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Within the Commonwealth, the militant Zaporozhian Cossacks refused polonization, and often clashed with the Commonwealth government, controlled by the Polish nobility. Unrest among the Cossacks caused them to rebel against the Commonwealth and seek union with Russia, with which they shared much of the culture, language and religion, which was eventually formalized through the Treaty of Pereyaslav in 1654.[33] From the mid-17th century Ukraine was gradually absorbed into the Russian Empire, which was completed in the late 18th century with the Partitions of Poland. Soon afterward in the late 18th century the Cossack host was forcibly disbanded by the Empire, with most of the population relocated to the Kuban region in the South edge of the Russian Empire, where the Cossacks would serve a valuable role for the Empire in subjugating the fierce Caucasian tribes.

The Russian empire considered Ukrainians (and Belarusians) a part of the Russian identity and referred to them as "Little Russians".[34] Until the end of World War I this view was opposed by a small group of Ukrainian nationalists.[35] Nevertheless, a perceived threat of "Ukrainian separatism" set in motion a set of measures aimed at the russification of the "Little Russians".[35] In 1804 the Ukrainian language as a subject and language of instruction was banned from schools.[36] In 1876 followed by a ban on Ukrainian books by Alexander II's secret Ems Ukaz, which prohibited publication and importation of most Ukrainian-language books, public performances and lectures, and even banned the printing of Ukrainian texts accompanying musical scores.[37]

Soviet Union

The February Revolution saw establishment of official relations between the Russian Provisional Government and the Ukrainian Central Rada that was represented at the Russian government by its commissar Petro Stebnytsky. At the same time Dmitriy Odinets was appointed the representative of Russian Affairs in the Ukrainian government. After the Soviet military aggression by the Soviet government at the beginning of 1918, Ukraine declared its full independence from the Russian Republic. The two treaties of Brest-Litovsk that Ukraine and Russia signed separately with the Central Powers calmed the military conflict between them and peace negotiations were initiated the same year.

After the end of the World War I, Ukraine became a battleground in the Russian Civil War and both Russians and Ukrainians fought in nearly all armies based on their political beliefs.[nb 1]

In 1922, Ukraine and Russia were two of the founding members of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and were the signatories of the treaty that terminated the union in December 1991.[nb 2]

The end of the Russian Empire also ended the ban on the Ukrainian language.[36] Followed by a period of korenizatsiya that promoted the cultures of the different Soviet Republics.[38]

In 1932–1933 Ukraine experienced the Holodomor (Ukrainian: Голодомор, "Extermination by hunger" or "Hunger-extermination"; derived from 'Морити голодом', "Killing by Starvation") which was a man-made famine in the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic that killed up to 7.5 million Ukrainians. During the famine, which is also known as the "Terror-Famine in Ukraine" and "Famine-Genocide in Ukraine", millions of citizens of Ukrainian SSR, the majority of whom were Ukrainians, died of starvation in a peacetime catastrophe unprecedented in the history of Ukraine. Scholars disagree on the relative importance of natural factors and bad economic policies as causes of the famine and the degree to which the destruction of the Ukrainian peasantry was premeditated on the part of Soviet leadership. The Holodomor famine extended to many Soviet republics, including Russia and Kazakhstan. In the absence of absolute documentary proof of intent, scholars have also made the argument that the Holodomor was ultimately a consequence of the economic problems associated with radical economic changes implemented during the period of liquidation of private property and Soviet industrialization, combined with the widespread drought of the early 1930s.

On 13 January 2010, Kiev Appellate Court posthumously found Stalin, Kaganovich, Molotov, and the Ukrainian Soviet leaders Kosior and Chubar, amongst other functionaries guilty of genocide against Ukrainians during the Holodomor famine.[39]

Independent Ukraine


Embassy of Russia in Kiev
Embassy of Ukraine in Moscow

After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Ukraine held almost 5,000 nuclear weapons, about one third of the Soviet nuclear arsenal and the third largest in the world at the time, as well as significant means of its design and production.[40][41] 130 UR-100N intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) with six warheads each, 46 RT-23 Molodets ICBMs with ten warheads apiece, as well as 33 heavy bombers, totaling approximately 1,700 warheads remained on Ukrainian territory.[42] While Ukraine had physical control of the weapons, it did not have operational control, as they were dependent on Russian-controlled electronic Permissive Action Links and the Russian command and control system. In 1992, Ukraine agreed to voluntarily remove over 3,000 tactical nuclear weapons.[40] Following the signing of the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances among the U.S., the U.K., and Russia, as well as similar agreements with France and China, Ukraine agreed to destroy the rest of its nuclear weapons, and to join the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).[43][44][45]

Additionally, several acute disputes formed between the two countries. The first was the question of the Crimea which the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic had administered since 1954. This however was largely resolved in an agreement that allowed for Crimea to remain part of Ukraine, provided its Autonomous Republic status is preserved.

The second major dispute of the 1990s was the city of Sevastopol, with its base of the Black Sea Fleet. During the fall of the Soviet state the city along with the rest of Ukraine participated in the national referendum for independence of Ukraine where 58% of its population voted for the succession of the city in favour of the Ukrainian state, yet the Supreme Soviet of Russia voted to reclaim the city as its territory in 1993. After several years of intense negotiations, in 1997 the whole issue was resolved by partitioning the Black Sea Fleet and leasing some of the naval bases in Sevastopol to the Russian Navy until 2017. In 1997 the Friendship Treaty, which fixed the principle of strategic partnership, the recognition of the inviolability of existing borders, respect for territorial integrity and mutual commitment not to use its territory to harm the security of each other, was signed.[46][47]

Another major dispute was related to the energy supplies, as several Soviet—Western Europe oil and gas pipelines ran through Ukraine. Later after new treaties came into effect, Ukraine's gas debt arrears to Russia were paid off by transfer of some nuclear-capable weapons that Ukraine inherited from the USSR, to Russia such as the Tu-160 strategic bombers.[48] During the 1990s both countries along with other ex-Soviet states founded the Commonwealth of Independent States and large business partnerships came into effect.

While the Russian share in Ukraine’s exports declined from 26.2 percent in 1997 to around 23 percent in 1998–2000, the share of imports held steady at 45-50 percent of the total. Overall, between one third and one half of Ukraine’s trade was with the Russian Federation. Dependence was particularly strong in energy. Up to 70-75 percent of annually consumed gas and close to 80 percent of oil came from Russia. On the export side, too, dependence was significant. Russia remained Ukraine’s primary market for ferrous metals, steel plate and pipes, electric machinery, machine tools and equipment, food, and products of chemical industry. It has been a market of hope for Ukraine’s high value-added goods, more than nine tenths of which were historically tied to the Russian consumer. Old buyers gone by 1997, Ukraine had experienced a 97-99 percent drop in production of industrial machines with digital control systems, television sets, tape recorders, excavators, cars and trucks. At the same time, and in spite of the postcommunist slowdown, Russia came out as the fourth-largest investor in the Ukrainian economy after the USA, Netherlands, and Germany, having contributed $150.6 million out of $2.047 billion in foreign direct investment that Ukraine had received from all sources by 1998.[49]


Vladimir Putin and Leonid Kuchma in December 2003.

Although disputes prior to the Ukrainian presidential election, 2004 were present including the speculations regarding accidental shooting down of a Russian airliner by the Ukrainian military and the controversy with the Tuzla Island, relations with Russia under the latter years of Leonid Kuchma improved. In 2002, the Russian Government participated in financing the construction of the Khmelnytsky and the Rivne nuclear power plants.[50] However, after the Orange Revolution several problems resurfaced including the Russia-Ukraine gas dispute, and Ukraine's bid to join NATO.

The overall perception of relations with Russia in Ukraine differs largely on regional factors. Many Russophone eastern and southern regions, which are also home to the majority of the Russian diaspora in Ukraine welcome closer relations with Russia.[51] However further central and particularly western regions (who were never a part of Imperial Russia) of Ukraine show a less friendly attitude to the idea of a historic link to Russia[52][53][54][55] and the Soviet Union in particular.[56]

Russia has no intention of annexing any country.

Russian President Putin (24 December 2004)[57]

In Russia, there is no regional breakdown in the opinion of Ukraine,[58] but on the whole, Ukraine's recent attempts to join the EU and NATO were seen as change of course to only a pro-Western, anti-Russian orientation of Ukraine and thus a sign of hostility and this resulted in a drop of Ukraine's perception in Russia[59] (although President of Ukraine Yushchenko reassured Russia that joining NATO was not meant as an anti-Russian act,[60] and Putin said that Russia would welcome Ukraine's membership in the EU[61]). This was further fuelled by the public discussion in Ukraine of whether the Russian language should be given official status[62] and be made the second state language.[63][64] During the 2009 gas conflict the Russian media almost uniformly portrayed Ukraine as an aggressive and greedy state that wanted to ally with Russia’s enemies and exploit cheap Russian gas.[65]

Further worsening of relations was provoked by belligerent statements made in 2007–2008 by both Russian (e.g. the Russian Foreign Ministry,[66] the Mayor of Moscow Yury Luzhkov[67] and then President Vladimir Putin[60][68]) and Ukrainian politicians, for example, the former Foreign Minister Borys Tarasiuk,[69] deputy Justice Minister of Ukraine Evhen Kornichuk[70] and then leader of parliamentary opposition Yulia Tymoshenko.[71]

The status of the Russian Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol remained a matter of disagreement and tensions.[58][72]

Second Tymoshenko Government
Vladimir Putin and Viktor Yushchenko in February 2008

In February 2008 Russia unilaterally withdrew from the Ukrainian-Russian intergovernmental agreement on SPRN signed in 1997.[73]

During the Russo-Georgian war, relations between Ukraine and Russia soured, due to Ukraine's support and selling of arms to Georgia. According to a Russian Investigative Committee 200 members of the Ukrainian UNA-UNSO and "full-time servicemen of the Ukrainian army" aided Georgian forces during the fighting. Ukraine denied the accusation.[74] Further disagreements over the position on Georgia and relations with Russia were among the issues that brought down the Our Ukraine-Peoples Self Defence + Bloc Yulia Tymoshenko coalition in the Ukrainian parliament during September 2008[75] (on 16 December 2008 the coalition did remerge with a new coalition partner, the Lytvyn Bloc[76]).

During the 2008 South Ossetia war, relations with Russia also deteriorated over the new Ukrainian regulations for the Russian Black Sea Fleet such as the demand that Russia obtain prior permission when crossing the Ukrainian border, which Russia refused to comply with.[77][78]

On 2 October 2008, Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin accused Ukraine of supplying arms to Georgia during the South Ossetia War. Putin also claimed that Moscow had evidence proving that Ukrainian military experts were present in the conflict zone during the war. Ukraine has denied the allegations. The head of its state arms export company, Ukrspetsexport, said no arms were sold during the war, and Defense Minister Yuriy Yekhanurov denied that Ukraine's military personnel fought on the side of Georgia.[79] General Prosecutor of Ukraine confirmed on 25 September 2009 that there was no personnel of the Ukrainian Armed Forces participated in the 2008 South Ossetia War, no weapons or military equipment of the Ukrainian Armed Forces were present at the conflict, and no help was given to the Georgian side. Also in the declaration the Ukrainian officials informed that the international transfers of the military specialization equipment between Ukraine and Georgia during the 2006–2008 were conducted in accordance with the earlier established contracts, the laws of Ukraine, and the international treaties.[80]

The US supported Ukraine's bid to join NATO launched in January 2008 as an effort to obtain the NATO Membership Action Plan.[81][82][83] Russia strongly opposed any prospect of Ukraine and Georgia becoming NATO members.[nb 3][84][85][86] According to the alleged transcript of Putin’s speech at the 2008 NATO-Russia Council Summit in Bucharest, Putin spoke of Russia’s responsibility for ethnic Russians resident in Ukraine and urged his NATO partners to act advisedly; according to some media reports he then also privately hinted to his US counterpart at the possibility of Ukraine losing its integrity in the event of its NATO accession.[87] According to a document in the United States diplomatic cables leak Putin "implicitly challenged the territorial integrity of Ukraine, suggesting that Ukraine was an artificial creation sewn together from territory of Poland, the Czech Republic, Romania, and especially Russia in the aftermath of the Second World War."[88]

Vladimir Putin in Ukraine, November 2009

During a January 2009 dispute over natural gas prices, exports of Russian natural gas through Ukraine were shut.[89] Relations further deteriorated when Russian Prime Minister Putin during this dispute said that "Ukrainian political leadership is demonstrating its inability to solve economic problems, and [...] situation highlights the high criminalization of [Ukrainian] authorities"[90][91] and when in February 2009 (after the conflict) Ukrainian President Yushchenko[92][93] and the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry considered Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's statement that Ukraine must compensate for gas crisis losses to the European countries an "emotional statement which is unfriendly and hostile towards Ukraine and the EU member-states".[94][95] During the conflict the Russian media almost uniformly portrayed Ukraine as an aggressive and greedy state that wanted to ally with Russia’s enemies and exploit cheap Russian gas.[65]

Videoblog of the address by Russian president Dmitry Medvedev to Ukrainian president Viktor Yushchenko on 11 August 2009. (Transcript in English).

After a "master plan" to modernize the natural gas infrastructure of Ukraine between the EU and Ukraine was announced (on 23 March 2009) Russian Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko told an investment conference at which the plan was unveiled that it appeared to draw Ukraine legally closer to the European Union and might harm Moscow's interests.[96] According to Putin "to discuss such issues without the basic supplier is simply not serious".[96]

In a leaked US diplomatic cable (as revealed by WikiLeaks) regarding the January 2009 Russian-Ukrainian gas crisis, the US Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor was quoting Ambassador of Ukraine to Russia Kostyantyn Hryshchenko as expressing his opinion that Kremlin leaders wanted to see a totally subservient person in charge in Kiev (a regency in Ukraine) and that Putin "hated" the then-President Yushchenko and had a low personal regard for Yanukovych, but saw then-Prime Minister Tymoshenko as someone perhaps not that he can trust, yet with whom he could deal.[97]

On 11 August 2009, Russian president Dmitry Medvedev posted a videoblog on the website, and the official Kremlin LiveJournal blog, in which he criticised Yushchenko for what Medvedev claimed was the Ukrainian president's responsibility in the souring of Russia–Ukraine relations and "the anti-Russian position of the current Ukrainian authorities".[nb 4] Medvedev further announced that he would not send a new ambassador to Ukraine until there was an improvement in the relationship.[98][99][nb 5] [100] In response, Yushchenko wrote a letter which noted he could not agree that the Ukrainian-Russian relations had run into problems and wondered why the Russian president completely ruled out the Russian responsibility for this.[101][102][nb 6] Analysts said Medvedev's message was timed to influence the campaign for the Ukrainian presidential election, 2010.[98][104] The U.S. Department of State spokesman, commenting on the message by Medvedev to his Ukrainian counterpart Yuschenko, said, among other things: "It is important for Ukraine and Russia to have a constructive relationship. I'm not sure that these comments are necessarily in that vein. But going forward, Ukraine has a right to make its own choices, and we feel that it has a right to join NATO if it chooses."[105]

On 7 October 2009, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the Russian Government wanted to see economy prevail in Russian-Ukrainian relations and that relations between the two countries would improve if the two countries set up joint ventures, especially in small and medium-sized businesses.[106] At the same meeting in Kharkiv, Lavrov said the Russian government would not respond to a Ukrainian proposal to organize a meeting between the Russian and Ukrainian presidents,[107] but that "Contacts between the two countries' foreign ministries are being maintained permanently."[108]

On 2 December 2009, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Petro Poroshenko and Lavrov agreed on gradually abandoning the compilation of lists of individuals banned from entering their countries.[109]


Viktor Yanukovych Presidency
Viktor Yanukovych and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on 17 May 2010 near Memorial to the Holodomor Victims in Kiev.
Vladimir Putin arrived at the 14th International Biker Rally in Sevastopol, Crimea, July 24, 2010

According to Taras Kuzio, Viktor Yanukovych was the most pro-Russian and neo-Soviet president to have been elected in Ukraine.[9] Since his election he fulfilled all of the demands laid out by Russian President Dmitri Medvedev in his letter written to former President Viktor Yushchenko in August 2009.[9]

On 22 April 2010 Presidents Viktor Yanukovych and Dmitry Medvedev signed an agreement concerning renting of the Russian Naval Forces base in Sevastopol in the next 25 years for the natural gas discounts in deliveries which accounted for $100 per each 1,000 cubic meters.[110][111][112] The lease extension agreement was highly controversial in and outside of Ukraine.[9]

On 17 May 2010, the President Dmitry Medvedev arrived in Kiev on a two-day visit.[113] During the visit Medvedev hoped to sign cooperation agreements in "inter-regional and international problems", according to RIA Novosti. That also was mentioned on the official inquiry at the Verkhovna Rada by the First Deputy prime-minister Andriy Kliuyev. According to some news agencies the main purpose of the visit was to solve the disagreements in the Russian-Ukrainian energy relations after Viktor Yanukovych agreed on the partial merger of Gazprom and Naftogaz.[114] Apart from the merger of the state gas companies there are also talks of the merger of the nuclear energy sector as well.[115]

Both Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (April 2010[10]) and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (June 2010[11]) have stated they noticed a big improvement in relations since Viktor Yanukovych Presidency.

On 14 May 2013 an unknown veteran of unknown intelligence service Sergei Razumovsky, leader of the All-Ukrainian Association of Homeless Officers, who resides in Ukraine under the Ukrainian flag calls on creation of Ukrainian-Russian international volunteer brigades in support of the Bashar al-Assad government in Syria to fight rebels.[116][117][118] One of the reasons why Rozumovsky wants to create such brigades is the fact that government of Ukraine does not support its officer corps.[119] Because of that Rozumovsky has intentions to apply for citizenship of Syria.[120][121] Some sources claim that he is a Kremlin's provocateur.[122]

On 17 July 2013 near the Russian coast of Azov Sea which is considered as internal waters of both Russia and Ukraine (no boundary delimitation), the Russian coast guard patrol boat collided with a Ukrainian fishing vessel.[123] Four fishermen died[124] while one was detained by Russian authorities on the charges of poaching.[125] According to the surviving fisherman, their boat was rammed by Russians[126] and the fishermen were fired at as well, while the Russian law enforcement agency claimed that it was the poachers who tried to ram into the patrol vessel.[127] The Minister of Justice of Ukraine acknowledged that Russia has no jurisdiction to prosecute the detained citizen of Ukraine.[128] According to the wife of the surviving fisherman, the Ukrainian Consul in Russia was very passive in providing any support on the matter.[129] The surviving fisherman was expected to be released to Ukraine before 12 August 2013, however, the Prosecutor Office of Russia chose to keep the Ukrainian detained in Russia.[130]

On 14 August 2013 the Russian Custom Service stopped all goods coming from Ukraine.[131] Some politicians saw that as start of a trade war against Ukraine to prevent Ukraine from signing a trade agreement with the European Union.[132] According to Pavlo Klimkin, one of the Ukrainian negotiators of the Association Agreement, initially "the Russians simply did not believe (the association agreement with the EU) could come true. They didn't believe in our ability to negotiate a good agreement and didn't believe in our commitment to implement a good agreement."[133]

Another incident took place on the border between Belgorod and Luhansk oblasts when an apparently inebriated Russian tractor driver decided to cross the border to Ukraine along with his two friends on 28 August 2013.[134][135] Unlike the Azov incident that took place a month earlier on 17 July 2013, the State Border Service of Ukraine handed over the citizens of Russia right back to the Russian authorities. Tractor "Belarus" was taken away and handed over to the Ministry Revenue and Collections.

In August 2013 Ukraine become an observer of the Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia.[136]

Euromaidan and aftermath
March 15 protests, named the March of Peace, took place in Moscow a day before the Crimean referendum
Pro-Russian protesters in Odessa, March 30, 2014

On 17 December 2013 Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to lend Ukraine 15 billion dollars in financial aid and a 33% discount on natural gas prices.[137][138] The treaty was signed amid massive, ongoing protests in Ukraine for closer ties between Ukraine and the European Union.[139] Critics pointed out that in the months before the 17 December 2013 deal a change in Russian customs regulations on imports from Ukraine was a Russian attempt to prevent Ukraine to sign an Association Agreement with the European Union.[140][141][137]

The 2014 Crimean crisis was unfolding in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, in the aftermath of the 2014 Ukrainian revolution, in which the government of Yanukovych was ousted. Protests were staged by groups of mainly ethnic Russians who opposed the events in Kiev and wanted close ties or integration with Russia, in addition to expanded autonomy or possible independence for Crimea. Other groups, including Crimean Tatars, protested in support of the revolution. On 27 February, armed men wearing masks seized a number of important buildings in Crimea, including the parliament building and two airports. Under siege, the Supreme Council of Crimea dismissed the autonomous republic's government and replaced chairman of the Council of Ministers of Crimea, Anatolii Mohyliov with Sergey Aksyonov.

Kiev accused Russia of intervening in Ukraine's internal affairs, while the Russian side officially denied such claims. In response to the crisis, the Ukrainian parliament requested that the Budapest Memorandum's signatories reaffirm their commitment to the principles enshrined in the political agreement, and further asked that they hold consultations with Ukraine to ease tensions.[142] On 1 March without declaration of war, the Russian parliament granted President Vladimir Putin the authority to use military force in Ukraine.[143] On the same day, the acting president of Ukraine, Oleksandr Turchynov decreed the appointment of the Prime Minister of Crimea as unconstitutional. He said, "We consider the behavior of the Russian Federation to be direct aggression against the sovereignty of Ukraine!"

On 11 March, the Crimean parliament voted and approved a declaration on the independence of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol from Ukraine, as the Republic of Crimea, with 78 votes out of 100 in favor.[144] Crimeans voted in a referendum to rejoin Russia on 16 March.[145][146] The Republic of Crimea declared its independence from Ukraine the next day, started seeking UN recognition, and requested to join the Russian Federation.[147] On the same day, Russia recognized Crimea as a sovereign state.[148][149]

Immediately after the announcement of Russian recognition of Crimea as a sovereign state, Ukraine responded with sanctions against Russia as well as blacklisting and freezing assets of numerous individuals and entities involved with the annexation. Ukraine announced to not buy Russian products. Other countries supporting Ukraine's position (e.g. the European Union, Norway, Iceland, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Albania, Montenegro, the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, etc.) followed similar measures.[150] Russia responded with similar measures against Ukraine and its supporters but did not publicly reveal the list of people or entities sanctioned.[151][152][153]

On 27 March, the U.N. General Assembly passed a non-binding Resolution 68/262 that declared the Crimean referendum invalid.[154][155] Also on March 27, 2016, Dmitry Kozak was appointed to greatly strengthen Crimea's social, political, and economic ties to Russia.[156][157]

On 14 April, Vladimir Putin announced that he would open a ruble-only account with Bank Rossiya and would make it the primary bank in the newly annexed Crimea as well as giving the right to service payments on Russia's $36 billion wholesale electricity market - which gave the bank $112 million annually from commission charges alone.[158]

At the 26 June 2014 session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko stated that bilateral relations with Russia cannot be normalized unless Russia undoes its unilateral annexation of Crimea and returns its control of Crimea to Ukraine.[159] In February 2015, Ukraine ended a 1997 agreement that Russians can enter Ukraine with internal ID instead of a travel passport.[160]

In May 2015, Ukraine suspended military cooperation agreement with Russia,[161][162] that was in place since 1993.[163] Following a breakdown in mutual business ties, Ukraine also ceased supply of components that were used in production of military equipment by Russia.[164] In August, Russia announced that it will ban import of Ukrainian agricultural goods from January 2016.[165] In October 2015, Ukraine banned all direct flights between Ukraine and Russia.[166] In November 2015, Ukraine closed its air space to all Russian military and civil airplanes.[167] In December 2015, Ukrainian lawmakers voted to place a trade embargo on Russia in retaliation of the latter's cancellation of the two countries free-trade zone and ban on food imports as the free-trade agreement between the European Union and Ukraine is to come into force in January 2016.[168] Russia imposes tariffs on Ukrainian goods from January 2016, as Ukraine joins the DCFTA with the EU.[169]

According to the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine the amount of Russian citizens who crossed the Russia–Ukraine border (more than 2.5 million Russians in 2014) dropped by almost 50% in 2015.[170]

On 5 October 2016, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine officially recommended that its citizens should avoid travel to Russia claiming Russian law enforcers growing number of groundless arrests of Ukrainian citizens and that they often "rudely treat Ukrainians, use illegal methods of physical and psychological pressure, torture and other acts that violate human dignity".[4]

On 18 January 2018 the Ukrainian parliament passed a law defining areas seized by the Donetsk People's Republic and Luhansk People's Republic as "temporarily occupied by Russia."[22] The law also called Russia an "aggressor" state.[22] In November of that year Russia fired upon and seized three Ukrainian navy vessels off the coast of Crimea injuring crew members.[171] The event prompted angry protests outside the Russian embassy in Ukraine and an embassy car was set on fire.[172] Consequently, martial law was imposed for a 30-day period from 26 November in 10 Ukrainian border Oblasts (regions).[173]


Russia and Ukraine share 2,295 kilometres (1,426 mi) of border. In 2014, the Ukrainian government unveiled a plan to build a defensive walled system along the border with Russia, named "Project Wall". It would cost almost $520 million, take four years to complete and has been under construction as of 2015.[174]

On 1 January 2018 Ukraine introduced biometric controls for Russians entering the country.[175] On 22 March 2018 Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko signed a decree that required Russian citizens and "individuals without citizenship, who come from migration risk countries” (more details were not given) to notify the Ukrainian authorities in advance about their reason for travelling to Ukraine.[175]

Armaments and aerospace industries

The Ukrainian and Russian arms and aviation manufacturing sectors remained deeply integrated following the break-up of the Soviet Union. Ukraine is the world's eighth largest exporter of armaments according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, and according to analysts cited by the Washington Post around 70% of Ukraine's defence-related exports flowed to Russia before 2014, or nearly US$1 billion. Potentially strategically sensitive exports from Ukraine to Russia included 300-350 helicopter engines per year as well as various other aircraft engines from Motor Sich in Zaporizhia, intercontinental ballistic missiles from Yuzhmash in Dnipropetrovsk, missile guidance systems from factories in Kharkiv, 20% of Russia's uranium consumption from mines in Zhovti Vody, 60% of the gears to be used in planned Russian warships from manufacturers Mykolaiv, and oil and gas from the Sea of Azov.[176]

In March 2014, during the 2014 Crimean crisis, Ukraine barred all exports of weaponry and military equipment to Russia.[177] Jane's Information Group believed (on 31 March 2014) that while supply may be slowed by the Ukrainian embargo, it was unlikely to do any real damage to Russia's military.[177]

Popular opinion

In Russia

In opinion polls, Russians generally say they have a more negative attitude towards Ukraine than vice versa. Polls in Russia have shown that after top Russian officials made radical statements or took drastic actions against Ukraine the attitude of those polled towards Ukraine worsened (every time). The issues that have hurt Russians' view of Ukraine are:

Although a large majority of Ukrainians voted for independence in December 1991, in the following years the Russian press portrayed Ukraine's independence as the work of "nationalists" who "twisted" the "correct" instincts of the masses according to a 1996 study.[178] The study argues that this influenced the Russian public to believe that the Ukrainian political elite is the only thing blocking the "Ukrainians' heartfelt wish" to reunite with Russia.[178] Some members of the Russian political elite continued to claim that Ukrainian is a Russian dialect and that Ukraine (and Belarus) should become part of the Russian Federation.[179] In a June 2010 interview Mikhail Zurabov, then Russian ambassador to Ukraine, stated "Russians and Ukrainians are a single nation with some nuances and peculiarities".[180] Ukrainian history is not treated as a separate subject in leading Russian universities but rather incorporated into the history of Russia.[181]

According to experts, the Russian government cultivates an image of Ukraine as the enemy to cover up its own internal mistakes.[citation needed] Analysts like Philip P. Pan (writing for the Washington Post) argued late 2009 that Russian media portrayed the then-Government of Ukraine as anti-Russian.[182]

Russian attitudes towards Ukraine
Opinion October 2008[183] April 2009[184] June 2009[184] September 2009[185] November 2009[186] September 2011[187] February 2012[187] May 2015[188]
Good 38% 41% 34% 46% 46% 68% 64% 26%
Negative 53% 49% 56% 44% 44% 25% 25% 59%

80% had a "good or very good" attitude towards Belarus in 2009.[185]

During the 1990s, polls showed that a majority of people in Russia could not accept the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the independence of Ukraine.[189] According to a 2006 poll by VCIOM 66% of all Russians regretted the collapse of the Soviet Union.[190] 50% of respondents in Ukraine in a similar poll held in February 2005 stated they regret the disintegration of the Soviet Union.[191] In 2005 (71%) and 2007 (48%) polls, Russians expressed a wish to unify with Ukraine; although a unification solely with Belarus was more popular.[192][193]

A poll released on 5 November 2009 showed that 55% of Russians believed that the relationship with Ukraine should be a friendship between "two independent states".[186] A late 2011 poll by the Levada Center showed 53% of polled Russians preferred friendship with an independent Ukraine, 33% preferred Ukraine to be under Russia's economic and political control, and 15% were undecided.[194] According to Levada's 2012 poll, 60% of Russians preferred Russia and Ukraine as independent but friendly states with open borders without visas or customs; the number of unification supporters increased by 4% to 20% in Russia.[195] Twenty surveys conducted from January 2009 to January 2015 by the Levada Center found that less than 10% of Russians supported Russia and Ukraine becoming one state.[196] In the January 2015 survey, 19% wanted eastern Ukraine to become part of Russia and 43% wanted it to become an independent state.[196]

A November 2014 survey by the University of Oslo found that most Russians viewed Ukraine as not legitimate as a state in its internationally recognised borders and with its then government.[197] According to an April 2015 survey by the Levada Center, when asked "What should be Russia's primary goals in its relations with vis-a-vis Ukraine?" (multiple answers allowed), the most common answers were: Restoring good neighborly relations (40%), retaining Crimea (26%), developing economic cooperation (21%), preventing Ukraine from joining NATO (20%), making gas prices for Ukraine the same as for other European countries (19%), and ousting the current Ukrainian leadership (16%).[198]

In Ukraine

Ukrainian attitudes towards Russia
Opinion October 2008[183] June 2009[199] September 2009[185] November 2009[186] September 2011[187] January 2012[187] April 2013[200] Mar–Jun 2014[201] June 2015[202]
Good 88% 91% 93% 96% 80% 86% 70% 35% 21%
Negative 9% - - - 13% 9% 12% 60% 72%

The current crisis between Ukraine and Russia can be identified as a systemic crisis of the basic models which can be Ukrainian statehood after the Soviet Union and the post-unipolar world. There are numerous causes of this crisis, which clearly has political, economic, social, and cultural dimensions to it and clearly three main conflict parties. As it was mentioned above, the country has been divided more or less evenly between Ukrainians who would want to see Ukraine as part of Europe and those who would want to see it as intrinsically linked to Russia.

A poll released on 5 November 2009 showed that about 67% of Ukrainians believed the relationship with Russia should be a friendship between "two independent states".[186] According to a 2012 poll by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology (KIIS), 72% of Ukrainians preferred Ukraine and Russia as independent but friendly states with open borders without visas or customs; the number of unification supporters shrunk by 2% to 14% in Ukraine.[195]

In December 2014, 85% of Ukrainians (81% in eastern regions) rated relations with Russia as hostile (56%) or tense (29%), according to a Deutsche Welle survey which did not include Crimea and the separatist-controlled part of Donbass.[203] Gallup reported that 5% of Ukrainians (12% in the south and east) approved of the Russian leadership in a September–October 2014 survey, down from 43% (57% in the south and east) a year earlier.[204]

In September 2014, a survey by Alexei Navalny of the mainly Russophone cities of Odessa and Kharkiv found that 87% of residents wanted their region to stay in Ukraine, 3% wanted to join Russia, 2% wanted to join "Novorossiya," and 8% were undecided.[205] A KIIS poll conducted in December 2014 found 88.3% of Ukrainians were opposed to joining Russia.[206]

Treaties and agreements

Leaders of Belarusian, Russian and Ukrainian Soviet republics signed the Belavezha Accords, dissolving the Soviet Union, 8 December 1991

Ukraine (has also) terminated several treaties and agreement with Russia since the start of the 2014 Crimea crisis (for example agreements in the military and technical cooperation sphere signed in 1993).[224][225]

Territorial disputes

A number of territorial disputes exist between two countries:

See also


  1. See Ukrainian Civil War combatants include Anarchists, White Russians, Bolsheviks, Central Powers, Ententes and those of short-lived Ukrainian governments.
  2. See Belavezha Accords
  3. After the two countries were denied membership of the NATO Membership Action Plan (at the NATO summit 2008 in April 2008) Russia's NATO envoy Dmitry Rogozin stated in December 2008: "They will not invite these bankrupt scandalous regimes to join NATO...more so as important partnerships with Russia are at stake", after an earlier statement that "In the broad sense of the word, there is a real threat of the collapse of the Ukrainian state." Ukraine’s envoy to NATO Ihor Sahach replied: "In my opinion, he is merely used as one of cogs in the informational war waged against Ukraine. Sooner or later, I think, it should be stopped". The envoy also expressed a surprise with Rogozin's slang words. "It was for the first time that I heard such a higher official as an envoy using this, I even don’t know how to describe it, whether it was slang or language of criminal circles... I can understand the Russian language, but, I’m sorry, I don't know what his words meant".[84][85]
  4. In the videoblog, Medvedev accused Yushchenko of arming the Georgian military with Ukrainian weapons which were used in the war in South Ossetia in August 2008. Among other issues in the relationship, such as the Black Sea Fleet, gas disputes, Medvedev also accused Yushchenko of attempting to eliminate the Russian language from everyday life in Ukraine. Medvedev also accused the Yushchenko administration of being willing to engage in historical revisionism and heroisation of Nazi collaborators, and imposing on the international community "a nationalistic interpretation of the mass famine of 1932–1933 in the USSR, calling it the "genocide of the Ukrainian people".
  5. The development came after Ukraine accepted the appointment of Mikhail Zurabov to replace Viktor Chernomyrdin as Russia's ambassador in Kiev, who was recalled in June 2009.
  6. In the letter Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko called Ukraine's position on the 2008 events in Georgia coincident with "the known positions of virtually all other countries" with "an exceptional respect for the sovereignty, territorial integrity and inviolability of borders of Georgia or any other sovereign states", called arms trade with Georgia legal since Georgia has not been and now is not a subject of any international sanctions or embargo, objected to Russian criticism about Ukraine joining NATO (emphasizing that the desire of Ukraine to membership in NATO was in no way directed against Russia and the final decision on accession to NATO will be held only after a national referendum), accused the Black Sea Fleet of "gross violations of bilateral agreements and the legislation of Ukraine", accused Russia of trying "to deprive Ukraine of its view of its own history" and accused Russia that not Ukraine but Russia itself is "virtually unable to realize the right to meet their national and cultural needs" of the Ukrainian minority in Russia.[103]


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