According to Global Conflict Tracker, the crisis in Ukraine began with protests in the capital Kiev in November 2013 against the decision of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych to reject an agreement for greater economic integration with the European Union. After a violent crackdown by state security forces, unintentionally attracting an even larger number of protesters and escalating the conflict, President Yanukovych fled the country in February 2014.
In March 2014, Russian troops took control of the Crimean region of Ukraine before formally annexing the peninsula after Crimean residents voted to join the Russian Federation in a disputed local referendum. Russian President Vladimir Putin has mentioned the need to protect the rights of Russian citizens and Russian speakers in Crimea and southeastern Ukraine. The crisis exacerbated ethnic divisions, and two months later, pro-Russian separatists in the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions held a referendum to declare independence from Ukraine.
Violence in eastern Ukraine between Russian-backed separatist forces and the Ukrainian military has killed more than 10,300 people and injured nearly 24,000 since April 2014. Although Moscow has denied involvement, Ukraine and NATO have reported the buildup of Russian troops and equipment. military near Donetsk and Russian cross-border bombing.