As protests in Ukraine's eastern region turned violent on Sunday leading to the death of a Ukrainian security officer in a shootout with pro-Russian militia, Kiev threatens military action while Moscow flexes its geo-economic warfare muscles.
Pro-Russian militia groups have seized government buildings and police headquarters in Ukraine's eastern city of Donetsk and Slovyanks--where the shoot-out took place--and despite a Monday morning ultimatum by the Ukrainian government, these groups have shown no sign of giving in.
There has been no movement by the Ukrainian military to make good on its ultimatum; indeed, the messages have been unclear and contradictory.
Acting president Oleksander Turchinov has dangled the idea of a referendum that would seek to address the demands of the region's Russian-speaking population for more autonomy. In the same breath, Turchinov on Sunday promised a "large-scale anti-terrorist operation" to prevent another incident such as Crimea, which was annexed by Russia last month.
On Sunday, Moscow requested an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), while NATO came out with estimations that Russia had amassed up to 40,000 troops in more than 100 locations along its border with Ukraine.
This is the atmosphere that leads us up to 25 May presidential elections in Ukraine, which will be shaped by metamorphosing relations with Russia - and by energy.
Over the past few years, Ukraine's relationship with Russia has become increasingly adversarial, in tandem with Russian President Vladimir Putin's desire to increase his status and dominion.
But it is through the spectrum of energy that we have seen the more poignant phases of this change. The current controversial gas supply agreement Ukraine has with Russia was put in place less because of Putin's negotiating skills and more because of a concerted effort by former prime minister and current presidential candidate Yulia Tymoshenko to destroy the Ukrainian gas lobby run by oligarch Dmitry Firtash.
While Ukraine has always struggled with gas supply issues, this really changed the dynamic. Yuri Boyko-former energy minister and another current presidential candidate--has gone from a close working relationship to a very strained one with Russia as he sought to both keep the population supplied with cheap gas and to increase the country's independent energy supply.
Boyko's plans to further diversify the industry were halted when he was promoted to the position of vice-prime minister and Eduard Stavitsky, a member of ousted president Viktor Yanukovych's inner circle, was given the energy portfolio. At that point, all efforts towards energy independence abruptly ceased.
What's going on now is geopolitical and geoeconomic battle for the region, driven by loss of Russian credibility and Moscow's control of the Ukrainian presidency when Yanukovych was ousted in February.
But it's important in all of this to pay close attention to what Russia is airing as its grievances, which included: an illegitimate Ukrainian government led by radicals; unprotected Russian speakers in the eastern regions; and $11 billion in unpaid Ukrainian gas debt.
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