FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
ARE UKRAINIANS AND RUSSIANS CLOSELY-RELATED PEOPLES?
Russians and Ukrainians are not the same people. Ukraine is to Russia as Ireland is to England — Russia has repeatedly invaded Ukraine since 1149 A.D., but that does not make them the same nation or ethnicity.
The territories that make up modern-day Russia and Ukraine have been contested throughout history, so in the past, parts of Ukraine were part of the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union. Other parts of Ukraine were once part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Ottoman Empire, the Republic of Poland, among others.
For more information, visit the website of the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute.
IS UKRAINE A DEMOCRACY?
Yes! Ukraine has nurtured a vibrant civil society that stands in sharp contrast to the suppression of civil society and dissent in Russia. Since 2004, Ukraine has made substantial progress in combating corruption and promoting social and political reforms by passing and implementing landmark legislation in higher education, law enforcement, and health care.
Although Ukraine's progress has been resisted by post-Soviet oligarchs and foreign aggression from Russia, the majority of Ukrainians have demonstrated an unwavering commitment to democracy and human rights.
Ukraine has genuine political competition, freedom of the press and assembly, and an active civil society that has successfully stopped all attempts to consolidate authoritarianism. Supporting Ukraine is not imposed nation-building like in Iraq or Afghanistan, since there is broad and deep support for democratization within Ukraine as well as achievable goals set democratically by the Ukrainian people.
ARE RUSSIAN-SPEAKERS OPPRESSED IN UKRAINE?
No, the vast majority of Ukrainians speak Russian! Ukraine is home to the most free Russian-speaking population on Earth. In fact, the vast majority of Russian-language speaking Ukrainians in eastern and southern Ukraine supported the Ukrainian government and volunteer brigades that fought back against Russian troops and separatists, beating them back from 20% to just 7% of Ukrainian territory.
Think about it: if you opposed the invasion of Iraq, you should oppose Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Would supporting Ukraine be like the “nation-building” attempted in Iraq or Afghanistan? No, it’s the opposite actually — we’d be giving Ukrainians the space they need to build their own nation as they see fit, a right which Russia is trying to take away from them.
DO UKRAINE'S INDIGENOUS AND ETHNIC MINORITIES SUPPORT UKRAINE?
Ukraine’s religious and ethnic minorities (the indigenous Crimean Tatars, as well as Roman Catholics and Eastern Rite Catholics, Jews, Evangelicals, Mormons, Afghans, Armenians and Greeks) have been strongly supportive of Ukrainian independence and actively participated in the Revolution of Dignity in 2013-2014.
For more information about the Crimean Tatar's situation, visit their site here or read the Human Rights Watch report here. For information from the Ukrainain-Jewish Encounter, see here.
HOW STABLE IS UKRAINE AS A COUNTRY?
Despite an invasion launched by Russian forces and mercenaries in 2014 – a war that has taken 14,000 lives and displaced over 1.3 million people, Ukraine has not experienced a refugee crisis, as the vast majority of its internally displaced persons have been resettled due to the hospitality, solidarity and compassion of Ukrainians in other parts of the country.
If you're curious to see Ukraine's stability, how about having an espresso at this cafe in Lviv?
For more, see this report from the Atlantic Council's Andres Aslund.
PUTIN SAYS HE'S AFRAID OF NATO.
SHOULD I BELIEVE HIM?
[ Of course! One can always trust Putin. If President Putin were actually afraid of something other than NATO (like the Russian people following Ukraine's democratic example) he would definitely be honest about that. ]
Politically, President Putin cannot admit that what he truly fears is his own people. So he blames NATO instead. Take it from FT or Vox or the Atlantic Council.