Some are calling it the dawn of the second Cold War – and they just might be right. Russia is in a tense stand-off with pretty much every major Western power now over its attempt to increase its geo-political might by unifying former Soviet states, starting with Ukraine. Here are some things you need to know to stay up to speed.

  • Ukraine’s pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych broke off a trade deal with the European Union late last year in favour of closer ties with Russia. The move led to bloody protests in the capital, Kiev.
  • The protests were fierce enough to force Yanukovych to flee the country last month, a huge step forward for those in favour of Ukraine stepping out of Russia’s long shadow. There are many, however, in the eastern and southern regions of the country that are pro-Russian.
  • In response to Yanukovych’s ousting, troops wearing Russian uniforms were deployed to Crimea in southern Ukraine, seizing control of its security and administrative infrastructure. A video emerged showing these troops firing warning shots at a group of unarmed Ukrainian troops.
  • Russian president Vladimir Putin then held a widely-criticised press conference last week, where he said the troops seen in Crimea are merely local pro-Russian forces wearing Russian army uniforms. “Go into any local shop and you can buy one,” he said. He also denounced the ousting of Yanukovych as a coup d’etat.
  •  Western powers, led by the United States, have spoken out firmly against the invasion of Crimea. The US and EU are weighing up sanctions against Russia, while German chancellor Angela Merkel is reported as saying Putin has lost touch with reality, and is living “in another world”.

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