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Yanukovich’s subsequent ouster sowed new divisions between the eastern and western halves of the country, and fighting between pro-Russian separatists and government forces broke out in April 2014.Separatists in the regions of Luhansk and Donetsk established self-declared “people’s republics.” Elections on May 25 brought pro-Western businessman Petro Poroshenko into power, and he moved to try to reassert central government control over restive eastern cities.Yanukovich continued talks with the EU on a trade association agreement, which he signaled he would sign in late 2013.(Tymoshenko’s release was one of the conditions set by the EU for the trade association agreement.) But under pressure from Russia, he dropped those plans in November, citing concerns about European competition.The EU’s Eastern Partnership Program is aimed at forging tighter bonds with six former Eastern bloc countries, but Russia sees it as a stepping stone to organizations such as NATO, whose eastward expansion is regarded by Russia’s security establishment as a threat.Ukraine belongs to NATO’s Partnership for Peace program, but is seen as having little prospect of joining the alliance in the foreseeable future.

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By many accounts, he then reverted to the pattern of corruption and cronyism.

In the decade following independence, successive presidents allowed oligarchs to gain increasing control over the economy while repression against political opponents intensified.

By 2010, Ukraine’s fifty richest people controlled nearly half of the country’s gross domestic product, writes Andrew Wilson in the CFR book A reformist tide briefly crested in 2004 when the Orange Revolution, set off by a rigged presidential election won by Yanukovich, brought Viktor Yushchenko to the presidency.

After the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovich in February 2014, Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula and the port city of Sevastopol, and deployed tens of thousands of forces near the border of eastern Ukraine, where conflict erupted between pro-Russian separatists and the new government in Kiev.

Russia’s moves, including reported military support for separatist forces, mark a serious challenge to established principles of world order such as sovereignty and nonintervention.

Ukraine was part of Russia for centuries, and the two continued to be closely aligned through the Soviet period, when Ukraine and Russia were separate republics. Ukraine is also a major economic partner that Russia would like to incorporate into its proposed Eurasian Union, a customs bloc due to be formed in January 2015 whose likely members include Kazakhstan, Belarus, and Armenia.