Summing up 2014, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko remarked: “The year 2014 [...] is definitely the most difficult year since 1945 for Ukraine, Europe and the world in general.” While this may in some ways be an exaggeration, this year has been one of the most turbulent years in the post-WWII period, and definitely the most dramatic since the end on the Cold War, and the beginning of the so-called ‘Pax Americana’. But what exactly made this year so bad – just how many wars, conflicts and calamities occurred in this 365 day period? Let’s start from the beginning:
South Sudan Civil War (Beginning January) At the end of 2013 and into January this year, the two major ethnic groups that made up the majority of the new country’s population, the Dinka and the Nuer went to war. The split was driven by a fallout between two independence-era leaders and resulted in an attempted coup. When this failed, Nuer troops took to the bush and staged ongoing attacks against Government forces, now solely loyal to the majority Dinka tribe. The country now faces a humanitarian crisis due to lack of food, following its human-made one earlier in the year.
Ukrainian Revolution (February) The Euromaidan protests which began in November 2013 reached their peak in intensity in February. Activists attempted to storm the government buildings on Hrushevskoho St, however were beaten back by ‘Berkut’ riot police to a series of heavily fortified barricades. In a climactic period of heavy clashes from the 18th and to the 23rd of February, police attempted to storm the Euromaidan encampment. This attempt failed and the police were forced into a hasty retreat, leaving more than 100 people dead. Following this ruling president Victor Yanukovych fled the country to Russia, triggering a change of government.
Annexation of Crimea (March) Following the revolution in Kyiv, the Russia government, deeply unhappy with the outcome, decided to take advantage of the chaos, and annex the region of Crimea in the south of Ukraine. Unmarked Russian troops moved from bases on the Black Sea and quickly claimed strategic positions around the Crimean peninsula, including surrounding key Ukrainian military and air force bases. The new pro-Russian authorities then held a referendum on secession from Ukraine and joining Russia, which passed with overwhelming support, despite condemnation from the international community.
War in Donbass (Beginning April) As from in Crimea, there was also significant pro-Russia sentiment in Eastern Ukraine. In April, unmarked soldiers began occupying government buildings in Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts in the Donbass region of Ukraine. These groups eventually coalesced to form “Novorossiya”, a self declared state in Eastern Ukraine. After attempting to negotiate with leaders breakaway republics the new Ukrainian government launched its ‘Anti Terrorist Operation’ (ATO) against these groups. This undeclared war was initially very successful, with pro-Russian forces losing much territory.