Live from Abu Dhabi Connect the World takes you on a journey across continents, investigating the stories that are changing our world.
A U.S. congressional delegation has arrived in Kiev alongside Vice-President Joe Biden. The aim is to counter a growing conflict with Moscow which has sparked fears of a new Cold War. Ahead of this multi-faceted diplomatic effort, Becky Anderson spoke with Ed Royce, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and his Democratic counterpart Eliot Engel in the Ukrainian capital.
As tensions escalate in Eastern Ukraine and the prospect of war looms ever closer, Becky Anderson quizzes former President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili about his experience of confronting the Kremlin and looking to the West for support.
As the fallout from Crimea's Sunday referendum continues, Becky spoke to Volodymyr Khandogiy, the Ukrainian ambassador to the United Kingdom. She asked him whether the sanctions imposed by the U.S. and the European Union go far enough.
Khandogiy said a lot more can be done. According to him, two things are key to any actions that will make Russia take notice: "First of all they have to be effective and second of all they have to be painful to Russians."
He went on to say that there is more that can be done to help Ukraine. "Of course we will be happy to receive military technical assistance from our partners." Khandogiy says that kind of help was the subject of recent talks between the Foreign Minister of Ukraine and the Secretary General of NATO.
Though Khandogiy says he doesn’t know Russian President Vladimir Putin’s motivations for certain, he says that one possible motive resonates the most with him – Putin's "perception that Ukraine does not deserve to be an independent state."
The histories of Russia and Ukraine have been intimately linked for centuries – nowhere more so than on Ukraine's Crimean peninsula, where many ethnic Russians live today.
But how do average Russians view the region? And how does Crimea fit into President Vladimir Putin's broader ambitions?
Atika Shubert sat down with two Russian experts to learn more.
Uilleam Blacker, a Professor in Russian Literature, acknowledged that a large majority of Crimean residents identify as Russian, and even speak the language. But he cautioned that ethnic background doesn't necessarily equate to support for joining Russia.
"Even with the Russian population," Blacker says, "There's no evidence to suggest that there's actually overwhelming support for joining Russia."
Freelance Russian journalist Masha Karp says the Crimean peninsula plays directly into Putin's plans for a resurgent Russia.
"I think this is part of his very powerful rhetoric," Karp says. "Russia is getting off its knees. Part of his propaganda is we are trying to become again a world power."
The possibility of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula re-joining Russia is – in many ways – a return to the past.
Russia's Soviet Empire once spanned all the way from the Kuril Islands – North of Japan – to Ukraine and Crimea in the West. That empire was quickly dismantled at the end of the Cold War, splitting into fifteen independent states.
Despite the geo-political changes brought about by time and history, Crimea remains a region that looms large in both Eastern and Western Europe. It's a place that has featured in literature, artwork, and national myth-making.
We look back at the Crimean peninsula's role in historic conflicts, and popular lore.