Ukraine heated up this weekend when Russian troops invaded Crimea and backed the unrecognized Prime Minister Sergey Aksyonov, who has declared the province is now independent from Ukraine. The situation essentially pits all of Europe against Russia, with the Ukrainian people caught in the middle. It feels like the way something like World War III might start for good reasons.
Russia cannot let Ukraine go over to the West for many reasons and has been playing every card in their deck. This situation started on 21 November when Ukrainian President Yanukovych backed out of a deal to join a European Union “Eastern Partnership” under Russian pressure. Russia then sent a $15B emergency loan to Ukraine, more or less paying Ukraine to be their friend. The people of Ukraine rose in protest, eventually ousting Yanukovych and declaring an interim government with limited legitimacy.
There is a lot of background necessary to understand this from a Ukrainian, Russian, and European Union perspective. Much of this is unfinished business from the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, but the tortured history goes back much further.