After two days of violent clashes in Kiev's Independence Square, the Ukrainian parliament votes to remove President Viktor Yanukovych from power. Yanukovych briefly disappears from public view, then reappears on TV denouncing what he calls a coup. Former Prime Minister and opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko is freed from prison and speaks to crowds gathered in Kiev.
Russia has invaded the Crimean peninsula of Ukraine and taken over its civilian and military infrastructure. Not a shot has been fired so far, but Russia is using its superior force to intimidate Ukrainian troops in an attempt to get them to surrender. Russia claims it wants to stabilize the situation on the peninsula, which has a large Russian population, but Ukraine's new government regards the move as an occupation of its sovereign territory.
The day after Crimea's controversial referendum, in which 97 percent of the peninsula's population supposedly voted to join the Russian Federation, Ukraine's newly-formed National Guard begins training in anticipation of further Russian aggression.
Ukraine's government finally grasps reality and orders its troops out of Crimea. But by the time of the evacuation order, Russia's military has already started booting Ukrainian troops from their bases or getting them to switch sides. VICE News correspondent Simon Ostrovsky met with Ukrainian Marines in Feodosia as they decided whether to remain loyal to their country or break their oath of allegiance to stay with their families in Crimea.
The Right Sector is an ultra-nationalist movement that officially became a Ukrainian political party in March. The group has been extremely active during the protests in Independence Square, and set up their headquarters at the Dnipro Hotel in the capital. This week, the group was forced to vacate the hotel after they instigated a shootout that injured several people. Simon Ostrovsky was there for VICE News as the events unfolded.
The people of Donetsk declare themselves an independent republic and call for a Crimea-style referendum by May 11. Protesters occupy government buildings in the cities of Donetsk, Luhansk, and Kharkiv. Ukrainian authorities regain control of Kharkiv government buildings the next day.
Pro-Russia protestors in Luhansk took over the headquarters of the state security services on April 9. Armed with guns they found in the building, the demonstrators were determined not to leave. But not everyone in Luhansk wants to join Russia — and some who express that sentiment are suffering dire consequences.
VICE News reporters Simon Ostrovsky and Freddie Paxton were stopped at a checkpoint by armed pro-Russia forces loyal to the self-proclaimed mayor of Sloviansk, Vyacheslav Ponomarev. They were pulled from their car along with three other journalists with whom they were traveling. After a thorough search and questioning, Paxton and the three other journalists were released. Ostrovsky was held in a basement cell where he was blindfolded, beaten, and accused of being a spy.
On International Workers' Day, pro-Russia protesters marched through central Donetsk in eastern Ukraine calling for a referendum on the region's future. Some want to join Russia, while others to become a federal republic inside Ukraine — all want to separate from the interim government installed after the Euromaidan revolution. About 300 pro-Russia fighters seize the prosecutor's office in Donetsk.
Ukraine puts an end to months of political chaos by swearing in a new president, Petro Poroshenko, who vows to restore the country's territorial integrity. Poroshenko, a powerful oligarch before his election, will now have to prove to Ukrainians that he can reform the system that made him wealthy, while he simultaneously fights a war with rebels in the east.
A Malaysia Airlines passenger jet carrying 295 people was shot down — allegedly by pro-Russia separatists — in eastern Ukraine, dramatically changing the scope of Ukraine's months-long conflict. By the end of July, the EU and US announce new sanctions against Russia.
For three weeks, Donetsk, the capital of the breakaway Donetsk People's Republic, has faced constant barrages of deadly shelling. Hundreds of civilians have been killed as the Ukrainian army slowly encircles the city and the rebels fight for control of their most important city.
The Ukrainian government and the Donetsk People's Republic (DNR) reach a ceasefire agreement after talks in Minsk, Belarus. But before the ceasefire takes effect that evening, both sides launch attacks on each other. The DNR assaults Ukrainian positions in the city of Mariupol, while the Ukrainians attack DNR checkpoints on the road leading from Mariupol to Donetsk. VICE News headed north of Donetsk to the town of Yasynuvata to check on reports that the town had come under fresh artillery fire that left residents living in their basements without basic amenities. As the ceasefire held the next day, civilians in the village of Telmenovo were picking through the ruins of their homes, which were hit by shelling in the hours before the ceasefire began.
Pro-Russia separatists shoot down a Ukrainian military transport plane in the eastern city of Luhansk, killing 49. Other than the Malaysia Airlines disaster, it is the deadliest incident since the conflict broke out in April. The country's military has been struggling to regain control over the porous border with Russia as separatists continue to set up checkpoints and engage in sporadic fighting. Meanwhile, civilians are fleeing from towns in the area to avoid being caught in the crossfire. VICE News is in Luhansk to meet some of the separatist men and women who are determined to keep battling the government at any cost.
Parliamentary elections are held in much of Ukraine — including long-embattled areas in the east. Wary of interference from separatists, armed guards manned polling stations and escorted completed ballots to ensure their safety. Turnout in the region was low, however, as residents appeared reluctant to vote. And in the rebel-held Donetsk People's Republic, elections weren't held at all. On November 2, pro-Russia separatists there will hold their own elections in hopes of legitimizing their self-proclaimed republic.
January 26, 2015
After a lull in fighting between the Ukrainian military and the Russia-backed rebels of the Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics, violence escalates again in mid-January. The ceasefire that was reached in September seems barely worth the paper it was written on. A battle continues to rage around the strategically important Donetsk airport, as the Ukrainian soldiers — dubbed "cyborgs" for their resilience — fight to keep the airport from the DNR.
Despite the recent Minsk peace agreement, fighting continues between Ukrainian and DNR forces around the town of Debaltseve, which is encircled by separatists. The nearby town of Uglegorsk, which was captured by the rebels during their push toward Debaltseve last week, has been battered by artillery shelling, with the town nearly deserted by its inhabitants. VICE News crossed into DNR-held territory on the eve of the ceasefire to speak with soldiers and residents who balk at the suggestion of a truce.
CORRECTION: The photo originally used to depict the aftermath of the Malaysia Airlines crash was incorrect. It has been replaced.