The Conflict Between Russia and Ukraine

Contributor: A. Castle. Lesson ID: 13987

What do you know about the war between Ukraine and Russia? How long have these neighboring countries been in conflict? What might their fight mean for the rest of the world? Find some answers here.


Government, History, World Cultures

learning style
personality style
Grade Level
High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Quick Query

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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On 24 February 2022, Russia attacked its neighboring country, Ukraine.

Russian invasion of Ukraine

As Russian soldiers and tanks invaded along their shared border, Ukrainians were met with explosions, gunfire, and casualties. Many went to the western border, away from Russia and the war.

Watch this 2022 news video to see thousands of refugees fleeing Ukraine.

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  • Could you imagine walking away from your home, not knowing where you are going or if you will ever be back?

The Russo-Ukrainian War has been an ongoing crisis between Russia and Ukraine since the Maidan Revolution in 2014, which led to the annexation of Crimea and the War in Donbas.

These two countries have a very long history. Understanding that history is the first step to understanding both sides of this conflict.

As you watch the following video, pay close attention to what binds these countries together.

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The video did an excellent job explaining why Russia and Ukraine are at war; however, it covered a lot of information. Let's break down some of the most important facts.

A Shared Land

In the 9th Century, the present-day area of Russia and Ukraine was a Slavic state known as Kievan Rus, and Kyiv was its capital city. Kyiv is the current capital of Ukraine.

Russification was rampant in Ukraine during the 1700s and 1800s. Russification is removing culture and language from an area and replacing it with Russian culture and language. At one point, the Ukrainian language was banned in its own country.

During the 1900s, Russia and Ukraine were parts of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). There were 15 republics in total. Russia was the most powerful, and Ukraine was the second.

map of USSR

In 1991, the USSR - also known as the Soviet Union - collapsed. Both Russia and Ukraine declared their independence.

Broken Promises

In 1994, Ukraine had the world's third-largest nuclear weapon stockpile. However, it agreed to give them to Russia in exchange for guaranteed protection from force and interference in its independent government.

Known as the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances, this agreement was made between Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan, who released their weapons, and the nuclear powers of Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

The UK, US, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, and Japan declared Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014 to breach the Budapest Memorandum, but no actions were taken.


In 2013, most Ukrainians wanted to join the European Union (EU). Then-president Viktor Yanukovych rejected this trade deal, however, and instead took 15 billion dollars from Russia.

Feeling as though they had been sold to Russia, many Ukrainians participated in the Euromaidan protests, which led to the end of Yanukovych's presidency in February 2014 when he fled to Russia.

Angry over losing control of the Ukrainian government, Russia annexed - took back - Crimea from Ukraine.

Many Ukrainians who lived in the east were also unhappy to lose Yanukovych as their leader. With the help of the Russian military, these separatists took control of the Donbas area of Ukraine and waged war against the rest of the country.

Both sides agreed to a ceasefire and signed the Minsk Accords. However, it was never implemented.

map of Ukraine

The current Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, won 73% of the vote during his 2019 landslide election. He opposes Russia's occupation in Donbas and is a symbol throughout most of Ukraine of the allure of the West's democracy and lifestyle.


Russia, and its President Vladimir Putin, believe that Ukraine should have remained a part of Russia. Bringing Crimea back was met with support. Putin reasoned that he did not break the Budapest Memorandum because Crimea was not part of Ukraine.

In the past, Putin has described Ukraine as "entirely created by Russia" and "an inalienable part of our history, culture and spiritual space." This belief negates the idea that Russian troops in Ukraine are an invasion. However, a shared history and cultural space do not negate a country's existence and independence.

Returning Russia to the size and power the USSR had before the end of the Cold War is Putin's greatest goal. Losing Ukraine to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) would be a huge loss.

It would also create a place for Western influence and power right on Russia's doorstep; something that unnerves Putin.

Now that you know a bit of the history between Russia and Ukraine, move on to the Got It? section to discover how the world initially reacted to the 2022 invasion.

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