An updated glossary with everything you need to know about Ukraine’s crisis


A pro-Ukrainian supporter, foreground, stands opposite pro-Russia supporters in Donetsk. (AP)

About six weeks ago, we published a glossary of key terms in the Ukraine crisis; since then, Crimea voted to become part of Russia and conflict has shifted to the eastern part of the country. Here are the key words, phrases, people and places involved.

We've added Donbass, Donetsk People's Republic, "green men," Novorossiya, Transnistria and Dmytro Yarosh, as well as edited throughout. (What else should we add? E-mail!)

Anti-protest laws: Measures Viktor Yanukovych passed Jan. 16 designed to limit protests. Dubbed the "Dictatorship Laws" by protesters, they led to a new level of violence in the Euromaidan protests and were repealed by parliament two weeks later.

Berkut: Descended from an elite force in Soviet times, the Berkut were Ukrainian riot police who operated under the Interior Ministry. At the center of much of the violence with Euromaidan protesters, they were disbanded Feb. 26. There were reports in March that Russia is givin out passports to ex-Berkut officers.

Black Sea Fleet: A Russian naval unit that has been based in the Crimean city of Sevastopol. It’s not a particularly powerful force. It consists of an aging guided-missile cruiser, the Moskva; a large, dated anti-submarine-warfare cruiser; a destroyer; two frigates; landing ships; and a diesel-powered attack submarine. Viktor Yanukovych and then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev reached a deal to extend the lease on facilities in Crimea until 2042 in exchange for a discounted deal for natural gas.

The Budapest Memorandum: An agreement in 1994 that saw Russia, the United States and Great Britain agree to recognize the "independence and sovereignty" of Ukraine in exchange for it giving up its stockpile of nuclear weapons. Russian President Vladimir Putin has suggested that this agreement is void, as Ukraine is no longer the same state it was in 1994.

Crimea: A peninsula jutting into the northern tip of the Black Sea. This strategically located region has been fought over many times over the course of its complicated history. Long a part of Russia, it was given to Ukraine in 1954, though it enjoyed a good dose of autonomy. Residents of Crimea, the majority of whom are ethnically Russian, voted March 16 to leave Ukraine and join Russia.

Crimean War: A three-year war that started in 1853 and ended up with Russia keeping Crimea even though it lost the war. Russia fought an alliance of the Ottoman Empire, France, Britain and Sardinia over disputes involving the Middle East and religion. It's widely considered the beginning of modern warfare.

Crimean Tatars: A Sunni Muslim, Turkic ethnic group that has been in Crimea since before it became part of Russia. Notably, the entire population was deported to Central Asia as punishment for collaboration with German forces during World War II. Since 1991, they have been coming back in droves: By Ukraine's last census in 2001, they were said to make up 12 percent of the population. As you might imagine, they are said to be anti-Russian and largely supportive of the Euromaidan protests. NB: It's Tatar, not Tartar.

The demographic split: To put this very simply, thanks to a complicated history, Ukraine can broadly be split between a Ukrainian-speaking West and a Russian-speaking East. Some have argued that this is an oversimplification (most things are), but it does still seem to hold weight.

Donbass: A region of eastern Ukraine with an unofficial capital of Donetsk. Pro-Russian separatists are operating in parts of this region.

Donetsk People's Republic: A self-declared breakaway region of Ukraine in the eastern region of Donetsk, the the pro-Russian Donetsk People's Republic seeks a break from Kiev. The region is not recognized by outside states and there have been some questions about its legitimacy. In mid-April, a number of masked men carrying a Russian flag reportedly handed out leaflets demanding that Jews register. The leaflet bore the logo of the Donetsk People's Republic, though temporary leader Denis Pushilin denied any involvement.

Euromaidan: The name given to the anti-government protests that began Nov. 21, 2013, and eventually led to the ouster of Viktor Yanukovych. The name comes from the hopes of further European integration many had, and the name of their central Kiev location, Maidan Nezalezhnosti.

"The family": The name given to Viktor Yanukovych's immediate family and other associates who are said to have enriched themselves through corruption and nepotism.

"Fascists": Both Russia's foreign ministry and Viktor Yanukovych have linked "fascist" elements to the Euromaidan protests. There is some truth to this – far-right Ukrainian nationalist groups, such as Svoboda or Pravy Sektor, have been a part of the protests. Maidan supporters, however, dispute the idea that the protests are at all dominated by these groups, and critics have accused the Kremlin of playing "political football" with (the very real threat) of anti-Semitism in Ukraine.

Gazprom: Russia's huge, state-controlled gas company. Russia says Ukraine owes it $2.2 billion for fuel and that Ukraine will have to start paying for gas in advance unless it pays down that debt. The last time Russia and Ukraine argued over prices, Gazprom turned off the gas. Also worth noting: 15 percent of Europe’s gas imports come through Ukraine, the Financial Times reports.

"Green men": The euphemism used to describe the irregular or paramilitary forces deployed first in Crimea and now in Eastern Ukraine in the service of pro-Russia separatists. These troops wore uniforms with no emblem or insignia, allowing Moscow to initially dismiss claims that it was behind the separatist takeover of parts of Ukraine. But Western governments are firmly convinced that these “green men” are directly linked to the Russian military.

Kiev: Ukraine’s capital (also written as Kyiv) and the center of protests against the Yanukovych government. Its population tends to lean more to the west and Europe than east to Russia. It was also the focal point of protests in the Orange Revolution in 2004.

Klitschko, Vitali: A former professional boxer and heavyweight champion, Klitschko was perhaps one of the most prominent political leaders at the Euromaidan protests, and certainly one of the best-known internationally. In a leaked phone call, however, U.S. officials spoke disapprovingly of his chances for leadership. He is currently leader of the Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform.

Lustration: As Will Englund wrote for The Post, Maidan protesters used the phrase "lustration" to describe what they want from the new government. The term was first used after the fall of the Soviet Union to describe the purge of Communist officials from the government and bureaucracy in post-Soviet states. In Ukraine, however, it's being used to describe the purging of the government of those associated with Viktor Yanukovych.

Lviv: A culturally important city in Ukraine's west. Lviv apparently played a big role in the Euromaidan protests: It was reported to be sending 1,000 protesters a day to Maidan Nezalezhnosti at the height of the protests.

Magnitsky Act: A U.S. human rights law that created a blacklist of Russian officials last year. Bill Browder, a fund manager at the center of campaigning for the act, has told The Washington Post that it should be expanded in light of the Crimea crisis.

Maidan Nezalezhnosti: A square at the center of Kiev, its name quite literally means "Independence Square." It was at the heart of protests against Soviet rule in the late 1980s and early 1990s and the Orange Revolution.

NATO's Article 4: Poland has requested meetings under Article 4 of the North Atlantic Treaty. Here's the full text of that article: "The Parties will consult together whenever, in the opinion of any of them, the territorial integrity, political independence or security of any of the Parties is threatened." NATO meetings for Article 4 are exceptionally rare: Only Turkey has used them before, twice during the Iraq war and once during the Syrian conflict.

Novorossiya: A term referenced by Russian President Vladimir Putin that means "New Russia." It's territory won from the Ottoman Empire in the late 18th century that included much of what is now eastern Ukraine. The term has also been brought up by pro-Russia activists in Ukraine as they've argued against staying with Kiev.

Orange Revolution: A series of protests that began in November 2004 following the disputed election of Viktor Yanukovych as president. That vote was thrown out by the country's Supreme Court and a re-vote was held that put Viktor Yushchenko in office. Protests ended in January 2005 with Yushchenko's inauguration. Much like the Euromaidan protests, the center of the action was Maidan Nezalezhnosti — and protesters considered themselves more European than their Russia-leaning countrymen in the east.

Putin, Vladimir: A former KGB agent in East Germany, St. Petersburg native Putin had an unexpected rise through Russia's political elite during the 1990s before becoming prime minister in 1999 and president in 2000. Apart from a brief period between 2008 and 2012 when he was prime minister again (during which many suspected he was still the real power), Putin has been leading the country ever since. He believes that the new Euromaidan-linked Ukraine government is illegitimate and led by "fascists."

Russia: Ukraine’s neighbor to the east. It’s big and powerful and taking a strong interest in Ukraine. You’ve probably heard of it.

Russo-Georgian war: A short war in 2008 between Russia and former Soviet republic Georgia over the separatist states of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. It took just five days for Russia to overwhelm Georgia's far smaller army. Some believe that the war was a blatant act of aggression by Russia, and that it set a worrying precedent for the situation happening now in Crimea.

Sanctions: The United States and the European Union have both targeted a number of Russian individuals with sanctions due to their involvement in the Ukrainian crisis. While the sanctions took aim at a number of Putin's inner circle and won plaudits from some, some on the list have mocked it as ineffective. The U.S. is said to be considering more sanctions.

Sevastopol: The deep-water port in Crimea is home to Russia’s Black Sea Fleet and was the headquarters of Ukraine’s navy. Sevastopol was under siege for 11 months during the Crimean War and was heavily bombed by the Germans during World War II. It’s also a popular seaside resort and looks, feels and sounds like a little corner of Russia.

Transnistria: A sliver of Moldova that split away from the country as the Soviet Union collapsed and has effectively been a Russian and Ukrainian-speaking enclave ever since. In late March, a senior NATO leader warned that Russia might try and move its troops across Ukraine to reach this area. It's home to a Russian army base and has a population of about a half a million.

Turchynov, Oleksandr: Current acting president of Ukraine and speaker of the Verkhovna Rada. According to the BBC, he has said he would seek to reopen negotiations with the European Union, but has also said he is "open to dialogue with Russia." Considered an ally of Yulia Tymoshenko.

Tymoshenko, Yulia:: Tymoshenko rose to power as one of the predominant leaders of 2004's Orange Revolution and became prime minister of Ukraine in 2005. Her eventual fallout with Viktor Yushchenko lead to her star falling, however, and she lost the 2010 presidential election to Viktor Yanukovych. In her time in office, however, she helped negotiate a new gas deal with Russia that bypassed companies linked with Yanukovych but saw Ukraine pay a higher price. After Yanukovych came to power, she was charged with misuse of power and sent to jail, only to be released in February after Euromaidan.

Ukraine: A country about the size of Texas with a population of about 46 million bordered by Moldova, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, Belarus and — this one is important — Russia. It got its independence when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. Please note, it's not "the Ukraine," just "Ukraine."

Verkhovna Rada: Often just called the Rada, this is Ukraine's parliament. It's played an important role in Ukraine's crisis, pulling back Viktor Yanukovych's more drastic anti-protest laws, releasing Yulia Tymoshenko and ultimately ousting Yanukovych.

Yanukovych, Viktor: Yanukovych was president of Ukraine from 2010 till February 2014, though he claims he is still president. Raised in eastern Ukraine, he is said to have had a rocky start in life, and ended up in jail twice (though the BBC notes that his official biography claims that the convictions were eventually overturned). He worked his way up through the post-Soviet political world to eventually run in the 2004 presidential elections but never actually took office after the Orange Revolution questioned the legitimacy of the vote and he lost the re-vote. Yanukovych's critics say he has enriched himself at his country's expense and see his lavish mansion near Kiev as evidence of that.

Yarosh, Dmytro: Yarosh is the leader of the far-right Ukrainian nationalist group Pravy Sektor and candidate for the country’s May 25 presidential elections. The former Soviet soldier’s fiery brand of politics — and belief in the usefulness of militant action — has made him an easy target of the Kremlin. Ahead of Moscow’s de facto annexation of Crimea, Russian officials warned of the danger by the creeping “fascism” of Ukrainian nationalists like Yarosh to ethnic Russians living in Ukraine. In the wake of a deadly shootout in eastern Ukraine this weekend, Russian media pinned the attack on Yarosh and Pravy Sektor. A spokesman for the group rejected the charge as “absurd.”

Yatsenyuk, Arseniy: Current prime minister of Ukraine and leader of Yulia Tymoshenko's Fatherland party. In a leaked phone call between Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland and U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt, Nuland and Pyatt agreed that Yatsenyuk had good economic experience.

Adam Taylor writes about foreign affairs for The Washington Post. Originally from London, he studied at the University of Manchester and Columbia University.
Ishaan Tharoor writes about foreign affairs for The Washington Post. He previously was a senior editor at TIME, based first in Hong Kong and later in New York.
Terri Rupar is The Post's mobile product editor.
Comments
Show Comments

Get the WorldViews newsletter

Sign up for daily updates from WorldViews.

Most Read World
Next Story
Adam Taylor · April 23