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The Maidan Uprising, Separatism and Foreign Intervention

Ukraine’s complex transition

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Edited By Klaus Bachmann and Igor Lyubashenko

The current crisis in Ukraine has revealed a striking lack of background knowledge about Ukraine’s history and politics among West European politicians, journalists, intellectuals and even many academics. In this book, experts from Poland, Ukraine, the US, Russia and Western Europe fill the gap between an omnipresent and easily available narrative about Russia and a scarce, scattered knowledge about Ukraine. They show what history and political science can offer for a better understanding of the crisis and provide insights, which are based on reliable Ukrainian, Russian, Polish and Turkish sources and confidential interviews with key actors and advisors. Rather than offering easy answers, the authors present facts and knowledge, which enables the reader to make up his own informed opinion.
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The annexation of Crimea by Russia and the subsequent “invasion in disguise” in the form of Russia-supported armed uprisings in several east Ukrainian cities and towns triggered a kind of eye-opening moment in Western Europe. During the final days of the Maidan uprising in Kyiv and after the fall of Yanukovych, the pro-Western protests had been presented by most politicians and almost all media outlets as an outburst of the democratic and pro-Western aspirations of the entire Ukrainian society, and as a protest against a deeply corrupt and despised regime. The overthrow of the government, the occupation of the peninsula’s parliament, the hasty referendum and the annexation by Russia directed the attention of West European politicians and commentators to Ukraine’s East and South, which were now presented as pro-Russian, potentially separatist and hostile to European integration. From that moment on, Ukraine appeared in Western media coverage as a deeply divided country, threatened by civil war (rather than by foreign intervention). Suddenly, more and more commentators asked questions about guilt and blame and started to criticise the European Union institutions, or more generally “the West”, including the US.1 The changes in public opinion coincided with a propaganda campaign staged by the Russian government and Russian government-sponsored or -influenced media, countered – with less success – by the Ukrainian government, and the US government. Stereotypes about Russia and Ukraine, a lack of historical and political knowledge about Ukraine, propaganda and mere gossip and rumour added up to an intransparent and impermeable mixture...

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