Ukraine's fraught relationship with Russia: a brief history

Russia and Ukraine are bound together by history and geography, but Putin sees danger in that symbiosis

Photo montage of Kruschev, Putin, Stalin and Volodymyr the Great
Along with their common origin in 9th century Kyiv, Russia has controlled much or all of Ukraine for the past 350 years
(Image credit: Illustrated / Getty Images)

The history of what we now think of as Russia started in Kyiv more than 1,000 years ago when Viking warrior-merchants came down from the north and founded Kyivan Rus, the first East Slavic state, in the 9th century. But that common origin doesn't mean Russia and Ukraine are one big happy family.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in the long tradition of czars and Soviet potentates, claims Ukraine as part of his Russkiy Mir, or Russian world. Putin successfully engineered the annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula and parts of its eastern edge in 2014, but when he tried to stake his unilateral claim to Kyiv and greater Ukraine in 2022, he embroiled Russia in a bloody quagmire. 

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