When did Ukraine belong to Russia and when did it break away?

(CNN Spanish) — The tensions between Russia and Ukraine are not new: they have a common history dating back to the Middle Ages.

So when did Ukraine belong to Russia and when did it break away?

Both Ukraine and Russia have common roots in the East Slavic state of Kievan Rus. This is why Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks of Russians and Ukrainians as “one people”.

But both countries advanced separately for centuries, in which two languages ​​and cultures emerged. While Russia was becoming an empire, Ukraine had failed to establish its own state. By the 17th century, large areas of present-day Ukraine became part of the Russian Empire, and the territories were reorganized into regular Russian provinces administered by governors appointed from St. Petersburg, according to Encyclopedia Britannica. From then until the 20th century, Russia and the Soviet Union carried out a Russification program to discourage Ukrainian national identity.

After the Russian Revolution of 1917 and towards the end of World War I, Ukraine briefly became independent, until the early 1920s, when it became part of the Soviet Union.

In 1941, during World War II, it was occupied by Germany, until Soviet Russia regained control of the country in 1944 and expanded its borders to include territory taken from Romania, Poland, and Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic).

1990s: Independent Ukraine

In 1991, when the Soviet Union (USSR) was dissolved, that large territory it occupied was divided into 15 independent republics. Ukraine is one of them: in July 1990 it had declared its sovereignty.

Parliament declares independence, pending a referendum on December 1, 1991, which is finally approved with 90% of the votes. Thus, Ukraine joins the new Commonwealth of Independent States, along with Russia and Belarus.

From then on, Ukraine set its sights on Europe and its interest in joining NATO.

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Russian annexation of Crimea

Tensions between these two former Soviet states escalated in late 2013 over a historic political and trade deal with the European Union. After then-pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych called off the talks — apparently under pressure from Moscow — violent protests erupted in Kyiv for weeks.

Then, in March 2014, Russia annexed Crimea, an autonomous peninsula in southern Ukraine with strong Russian loyalties, on the pretext that it was defending its interests and those of Russian-speaking citizens.

The current crisis

Following months of steady military buildups along the Russia-Ukraine border, CNN reported in December 2021 that Russian forces were deployed along the Ukraine border to carry out a swift and immediate invasion, including the construction of supply lines, such as medical units and fuel, which could sustain a conflict, if Moscow decides to invade.

To this day, 100,000 Russian soldiers have remained assembled on the border with Ukraine, despite warnings from US President Joe Biden and European leaders about dire consequences if Putin goes ahead with an invasion.

The Kremlin denies planning an attack and argues that NATO support for Ukraine — including increased arms supplies and military training — constitutes a growing threat on Russia’s western flank.

With information from Stephen Collinson, Nathan Hodge, Matthew Chance, and Laura Smith-Spark

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