As Russian troops approach the Ukrainian capital. There are five facts that need to be known and on which even the great empires have differed.
Ukraine literally means “on the shore.”
Both present-day Russia and Ukraine trace their roots to the medieval state of Kiwan Rus, which at its height stretched from the Black Sea to the Baltic.
Although Russian President Vladimir Putin has tried to prove in his 5,000-word article that “Russians and Ukrainians are one and the same people.”
But the Ukrainians speak their own language, and much of what is now Ukraine was part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, while its other territories were under Kazakh and Crimean Tatars until the end of the 18th century.
It later became part of the Tsarist Russian Empire, although some western territories belonged to the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
Ukraine later became part of the Soviet Union. And it suffered a devastating famine because of the policies of Joseph Stalin, which killed more than 5 million people.
Decades later, after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, tensions in Moscow and Kiev flared up again, when a majority of the Ukrainian people voted for independence.
Following the pro-Western uprising in 2014, Russian-backed President Viktor Yanukovych fled.
Moscow annexed the Crimean peninsula and supported separatists in eastern Ukraine.
About 14,000 people have died in the conflict.
Crimea’s annexation by Russia in 2014 and the loss of the industrial region of Donbass led to the collapse of Ukraine’s economy.
GDP fell by more than six percent, and the following year it fell to about a tenth. Inflation also reached more than 40%.
The economy has improved somewhat since then, but the country of 4.5 people is one of the poorest in Europe.
The average monthly salary in Ukraine is 15 615. The country relies on transit fees for Russian gas supplied to Europe, but is ignored by Moscow’s new pipelines, such as the Nord Stream.
During the conflicts of 2006 and 2009, Moscow cut off supplies to Ukraine during the winter, leading to shortages in Europe.
The country is also prone to corruption and there are regular attacks on those campaigning against it.
The world’s worst nuclear accident occurred on April 26, 1986 at the Chernobyl nuclear power station in Ukraine.
Hundreds died in the crash, though the exact figures are disputed. Soviet authorities initially tried to cover up the devastation.
Eventually, 350,000 people were evacuated within a 30-kilometer radius of the plant. Humans will be safe to live there again after only 24,000 years.
Borscht and Chicken Kiev
Some people in the West consider borscht to be synonymous with Russian cuisine. Ukraine claims that this cabbage soup with beetroot is part of its national heritage, dating back to the 14th century. Many other dishes are competed between Russia and Ukraine, including chicken kiev.