FF: In your book, you insist on looking at domestic factors to understand how Ukraine got to where it is today. Why? Could you outline these factors?
YY: A lot of discussion on Ukraine revolves around international tensions — between NATO and Russia, or the United States and Russia — with Ukraine viewed as a blanket being pulled in different directions.
But we need to look at what has happened inside Ukraine to understand how we went from a country that voted overwhelmingly to become independent in 1991 — including in Crimea and Donbas — to the “referendum” to annex Crimea and the separatist “republics” in Donbas in 2014. Domestic dynamics are extremely important to understanding how irresponsible, self-serving local politicians created the conditions that made foreign interventions more possible.
In the 1990s, oligarchic groups emerged in different parts of Ukraine. At that time, Russia was weakened economically and politically destabilised. Russia’s pull in the region had also been weakened. This created space for domestic capital in Ukraine to grow without too much foreign intervention.
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