Confused about the ongoing conflict in Ukraine? The global community is watching closely, as the next steps by the parliament of Crimea and the Russian Federation could have far-reaching consequences. Since November, anti-government demonstrations in Kiev were met with escalating violence by special police forces; more than 88 people were killed over just one three-day period in February. Former President Viktor Yanukovych was deposed shortly thereafter, and fled Ukraine along with many of his political supporters. Ukraine's newly-formed parliament has led to uncertainties about separatism in the Crimean peninsula, an autonomous republic within Ukraine which heavily supported former President Yanukovych in the country's last presidential election.
Although jurisdiction of Crimea was legally transferred to Ukraine in 1954, the region was previously controlled by Russia for more than 150 years, and remains home to a majority ethnic-Russian population. As political tensions continued to escalate, the Russian government sparked international outrage by sending thousands of troops to Crimea and publicly supporting the local legislature's steps toward secession. A referendum is scheduled for March 16 which would bring Crimea back under Moscow’s control. International leaders and organizations have denounced the referendum as illegitimate under international law, saying that any steps by Russia to re-annex Crimea would be a "clear violation of the United Nations Charter; Russia's commitments under the Helsinki Final Act; its obligations to Ukraine under its 1997 Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Partnership; the Russia-Ukraine 1997 basing agreement; and its commitments in the Budapest Memorandum of 1994."
University College London maintains the outstanding resource Ukrainian Crisis 2014, which is updated daily with links to the latest news, NGO and IGO materials, and interview transcripts related to the conflict. The guide includes links to such helpful backgrounders as the February 26 Congressional Research Service report, Ukraine: Current Issues and U.S. Policy. (Additional resources for locating CRS reports, often a good source for background information on current events, can be found in our Federal Legislative History research guide.)
Interested in learning more about the international law documents at issue? Our research guides to International Law and Treaties will help you get started with the basics. The Duke Libraries Catalog contains hundreds of titles on the subjects of Sovereignty and International Law. For assistance with locating any of these titles, be sure to Ask a Librarian.