Ukraine is the largest country in Europe and one of the world’s largest grain exporters, with a strategic position on the Black Sea. Since 2013 the country has been in crisis. Mass protests (‘Euromaidan’) erupted in November 2013 after the then President, Viktor Yanukovych, scrapped plans for closer co-operation with the European Union. The protests effected a political revolution and Yanukovych was forced to flee the Ukrainian capital city of Kiev on 22 February 2014, but unrest developed among his supporters in the largely Russophone eastern and southern regions of Ukraine. An ensuing political crisis and Russian military intervention in the Ukrainian autonomous region of Crimea resulted in the annexation of Crimea by Russia on 18 March 2014. Following this, unrest in Donbass (the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts) turned into open war between the post-revolutionary Ukrainian government and pro-Russian insurgents, supported and often assisted by the Russian military and special forces.

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