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  1. Ukraine Main Page
  2. An Independent Nation
  3. A Struggling Economy and a Troubled Government
  4. Gas Causes an Energy Crisis
  5. Several Rounds of Elections and Another Gas Crisis
  6. Ally of Former Prime Minister Jailed
  7. 2012 Language Bill and New Election
  8. Massive Protests Call for Yanukovich's Resignation
  9. Yanukovich Flees Capital
  10. Russian Troops Sent to Crimea
  11. Putin Announces Annexation of Crimea
  12. Unrest Spreads to Other Eastern Cities
  13. Referendums on Autonomy Held in Other Eastern Regions
  14. Billionaire Businessman Wins Presidential Election
  15. Passenger Jet Crashes in Eastern Ukraine
  16. Offensive by Ukrainian Military Results in Gains; Rebels, Government Agree on Cease-Fire
  17. Pro-Western Parties Dominate Parliamentary Elections
  18. Cease-fire in Tatters Amid Resurgence of Fighting
  19. Expectations Low for Renewed Truce Agreement; Economy in Tatters
Unrest Spreads to Other Eastern Cities

After annexation, Putin continued to deploy troops on the southern and eastern border with Ukraine, areas that are dominated by ethnic Russians, raising fears that he may attempt to take over additional regions of the country. By the end of March, there were as many as 40,000 Russian troops stationed on the border.

Those fears were realized in early April, when pro-Russian protesters and armed militants in the eastern capital cities of Donetsk, Kharkiv, and Luhansk took over several government buildings and police stations. They also announced they were forming an independent republic and would hold a referendum on secession from Ukraine and annexation by Russia in May, clearly borrowing from the playbook used in Crimea. About a week later, pro-Russian armed militants carried out similar actions in other cities in the region. Oleksandr Turchynov, Ukraine's acting president, threatened the pro-Russian militias with an "antiterrorist operation" if they didn't withdraw. The militants ignored the ultimatum and Turchynov asked the UN to dispatch a peacekeeping force to the eastern part of the country. Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov repeatedly denied the government orchestrated the demonstrations.

On April 17 in Geneva, representatives from the U.S., Russia, Ukraine, and the European Union reached an agreement intended to de-escalate the tension in eastern Ukraine. The agreement stated that all illegal armed groups will lay down their arms and all buildings seized illegally will be surrendered. Both sides agreed to end the violence and intolerance, with anti-Semitism being singled out. Protesters who are not suspected of committing capital offenses will be granted amnesty if they surrender their arms. The statement also said while drafting a new constitution, Ukraine will make the process inclusive, transparent, and accountable. Russia did not commit to withdrawing the 40,000 troops it has massed on the Ukrainian border. The diplomats also discussed a proposal by acting Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk to decentralize power and give the regional governments increased authority, but federalism was not covered in the agreement.

The pro-Russian separatists refused to vacate the buildings they have occupied, saying they would not leave until the government in Kiev, which they do not recognize, steps down. Their defiance jeopardized the entire agreement. Turchynov ordered "antiterrorist operations" against the pro-Russian militants on April 22, but quickly withdrew troops without dislodging them from occupied buildings.

In response to Russia's refusal to comply with the agreement reached in Geneva to rein in the pro-Russian groups, the U.S. imposed additional sanctions in late April on seven Russian individuals, including Igor Sechin, the head of Russia's largest oil producer, and 17 companies with close ties to Putin, targeting some of the country's wealthiest and most powerful businessmen. The sanctions, announced on April 28, put a travel ban on the individuals and froze the assets of the officials and the businesses. They also restricted the import of U.S. goods that could be used for military purposes. The European followed with similar sanctions. The EU in general has been more reluctant than the U.S. to impose severe financial sanctions on Russia because of the closer economic ties between many European nations and Russia and Europe's reliance on Russia a source of energy. Nevertheless, the sanctions have begun to take a toll on Russia's economy. Standard & Poors cut Russia's rating, leaving it just one notch above junk status, investors have withdrawn about $50 billion from the country, and the stock market has fallen 13% in 2014.

By the end of April, acting president Turchynov acknowledged that pro-Russian separatists were in control of much of eastern Ukraine and had met little if any resistance when taking over government buildings in a steady stream of about a dozen eastern cities. "The majority of law enforcers in the east are incapable of performing their duties," he said.

Despite Turchynov's statement about the inept police, the Ukrainian government launched an offensive in the rebel-held eastern city of Sloviansk on May 2. The separatists shot down two Ukrainian military helicopters in the fighting. The turmoil spread to Odessa, a strategically important port city in the Black Sea area, and about a dozen people were killed in battles between separatists and advocates of Ukrainian unity. In addition, more than 40 people, mostly pro-Russian separatists, died in a fire in Odessa when the building they had locked themselves in went up in flames.

As the fighting and chaos escalated in eastern Ukraine and the U.S. and Europe threatened additional sanctions, on May 7 Putin unexpectedly announced the withdrawal of the 40,000 troops from the border with Ukraine, urged separatists to abandon plans for a referendum on autonomy, called the nationwide elections set for May 25 in Ukraine are "a step in the right direction," and said Russia would participate in negotiations to end the crisis. "I simply believe that if we want to find a long-term solution to the crisis in Ukraine, open, honest, and equal dialogue is the only possible option," Putin said. Both the U.S. and European officials responded with a heavy dose of skepticism that Putin would follow through. The pro-Russian separatists said they would hold the referendum on May 11 despite Putin's request.

Next: Referendums on Autonomy Held in Other Eastern Regions
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