Western powers meet as Russia occupies Ukraine

By Alejandro Freixes, CCNN Head Writer

President Vladimir Putin means business.

After Nazi-led Germany hosted the Olympics in 1936, the country’s leader, Adolf Hitler, ordered troops to occupy the independent country of Czechoslovakia, claiming he was protecting native Germans. This began a series of country takeovers by the Nazis, which the world eventually reacted to with World War II.

Now, shortly after hosting the Olympics, Russian President Vladimir Putin is occupying the independent country of Ukraine with military troops in its Crimea region, even though he claims the forces are just local militia groups that aren’t part of the Russian army. It seems that Putin is trying to bring back the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) that once challenged the USA for global influence in the Cold War, before it split up in 1991 into 15 countries like Russia and the Ukraine.

The USA and European Union are seeking diplomatic solutions, like threatening Russia with economic sanctions (money and trade restrictions), and they’re asking Putin to let the Ukraine decide its own fate. Despite Putin’s denial of involvement in the Crimean military standoff, Ukraine’s UN ambassador Yuriy Sergeyev says that Russian planes, helicopters, and boats flooded the area with 16,000 troops, and that disguised soldiers are sieging bases.

These shady tactics aren’t surprising, considering that Putin is an ex-KGB agent who rose to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel in the USSR’s thug-like secret police force, before eventually taking on political power in post-Soviet Russia. Some reports even claim that Putin is secretly the richest man on Earth, who hides his supposed $75 billion fortune from public knowledge, but no one knows for sure just how much he has.

As for why Putin is getting involved in the Ukraine, he says Russia is merely supporting ex-president Viktor Yanukovych, who was removed following months of anti-government protests. After all, the conflict began over the Ukraine’s president choosing Russian economic aid over the European Union in November, and this latest tug-of-war in the Crimean peninsula seems like Putin’s attempt to regain influence over the nation. The Ukrainian Parliament, which is like their congress, currently controls the country until presidential elections can be held in a few months on May 25, 2014. Both the Ukrainian government and Russian leaders are in negotiations, but neither side is cooperating. The top USA diplomat, Secretary of State John Kerry, is coordinating negotiations with both the Ukrainian parliament and foreign allies.

Now, the Crimean region’s lawmakers voted Thursday to leave the Ukraine and join Russia, offering a vote to citizens in 10 days. However, Ukraine’s temporary Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said that’s not allowed to happen. Will this lead to a civil war for independence?

Image of Vladimir Putin courtesy of World Economic Forum on Wikipedia. Featured image courtesy of U.S. Department of State on Flickr.