After an emergency Parliamentary session Saturday, Russia approved President Vladimir Putin’s request to send troops into the turbulent nation of Ukraine.
The move came after Russia had already started taking hold of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula, an autonomous parliamentary republic within Ukraine. Crimea has been largely pro-Russia, while other parts of Ukraine would like to be closer to the European Union.
Here’s a helpful map that explains Ukraine’s “East-West divide”:
As you can see, the west of Ukraine (including the capital of Kiev) is all predominantly Ukrainian-speaking. The entire eastern half of the country is either predominantly Russian-speaking or has significant Russian minorities. If you look at the Crimean peninsula (the brown area to the south), there is an ethnic Russian majority.
Crimea has long been a disputed territory, according an explainer on the region’s history in the blog Marc to Market. Though it was annexed by Russia in 1783, it was the subject of numerous wars in the 1700s and 1800s.
In 1954, after years as part of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (the largest state of the USSR), Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev transferred Crimea to Ukraine, another Soviet state at the time.
After the USSR fell, Ukraine became a sovereign nation. It was decided then that Crimea would become an “autonomous republic” inside Ukraine, essentially giving it more autonomy over local issues while still being subject to the Ukrainian government.
Many ethnic Russians in Crimea have long wanted a more independent Crimean state, with its own president and policies, and others consider Sevastopol, Crimea’s largest city, to be a part of Russia.