Sunday, 21 September 2014

by Natasha Wong and Ayena Shaneez

Lightning is said to never strike twice, but this time it did. Just months after the disappearance of MH370, MH17 was accidentally shot down by Russian-backed rebels, 40 kilometers from the Ukrainian-Russian border in Donetsk, Ukraine. All 283 passengers and 15 crew on board were killed. This intensified the international spotlight on the Ukrainian crisis and brought the crisis to Malaysian soil by meaninglessly involving Malaysian lives. Like every international conflict, it needs to be looked at from different perspectives, and we here will let you have a glimpse at both, from the Ukrainian government and the Russian government.


Ukraine only achieved independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Ever since, it has experienced a faltering economy and a wavering foreign policy, until then-President Viktor Yanukovych decided to further relations with Russia instead of the EU. This provoked the people to protest against the government, with support from the US and Europe.

Once the corrupt Yanukovych was driven out of the country and his government toppled, Russian troops invaded and annexed Crimea in an attempt to salvage its influence in Ukraine. The pro-Russian separatists in Eastern Ukraine felt that Russia would give them better terms. Hence, they allowed Russia to claim territory. The rebels pushed further and further, gaining control over a wider area of Eastern Ukraine.

The new pro-EU government started a military operation to forcibly drive the separatists out of East Ukraine. It did not go exactly as planned, as the separatists manage to organise and launch a counteroffensive, cutting off government troops. The turmoil was taken advantage of by Russia, and they sent in troops and supplied arms to the rebels in Crimea. Reports came in that Russia had amassed some 20 thousand military troops near the border, and had shot an anti-aircraft missile.

With the amount of resources such as military strength and weapons they have invested in, Putin’s motives still remain painfully unclear. But ever since Russia’s annexation of Crimea, Putin’s approval ratings have skyrocketed. This is a huge change compared to the Russian public’s response to his possibly-rigged re-election in 2012 which sparked mass protests in Moscow. Ever since, Putin has started pushing an anti-West foreign policy, and an attempt to revive imperialist Russia.

When MH17 was shot down by the rebels, Putin was quick to cut all ties with them but the truth was already out: a civilian plane carrying 283 passengers and 15 crew hailing from Malaysia, Australia and the Netherlands were victims of the rebel movement that was supported and armed by President Putin. And they seem to have died in vain as the fighting has only intensified after the tragedy.


Ukrainians are divided into those that see Ukraine as part of Europe and others who see themselves as linked to Russia by historical bonds to the Russian Empire.

In Crimea, according to the 2001 Ukrainian Census, Russians make up more than half (58%) of the population, with 77% of inhabitants claiming Russian as their primary language. This shows that Crimea is a predominantly Russian state that wishes only to be reunited with Russia. There was even an illegitimate majority vote among Crimeans for them to become a part of Russia. So why not allow Crimea to be a part of Russia?

Meanwhile, Ukraine has seen a government overhaul, carrying out its own political revolution. The Russians have not approved of this change, refusing to accept the new 2014 interim government, with it siding with NATO. NATO or the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, safeguards the freedom and security of its members through the use of political and military means. This means stopping Russia from colonising and ruling over surrounding countries, becoming more powerful than it is now.

Russia has repeatedly called to consider peaceful talks to solve the fighting. Humanitarian supply trucks sent by Russia to help Luhansk and Donetsk civilians trapped in the fighting were delayed for a week after the Ukrainian government asked for different permits despite showing consent from the US and the Red Cross.

This war has killed at least 2,593 people since mid-April, not including the passengers and crew of our own MH17. 951 civilians were shot down and killed in the Donetsk region alone. In other dangerous sites, numbers remain inaccurate. The rebels are losing and Russia does not seem to have any clear plan ahead. Economic sanctions imposed by the US and the EU are pushing Russia to the brink of collapsing in on itself. However, no one from the West is intervening as it would bring the threat of a third world war that much closer to reality.


After reading both perspectives, what do you think? Is one side more right than the other? Should they both be making a greater effort to achieve peace? What is Putin thinking? Well dear readers, only time will tell.


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