Ukraine: Images of a nation in transition
Ukraine is a country in transition. What began as organized protests against a proposed trade deal with the European Union has devolved into a geopolitical standoff between Russia and the West. The Crimean crisis has revealed Ukraine as a nation struggling to overcome deep historical, cultural and ethnic divisisions.
There are currently an estimated 20,000 Russian troops – including infantry, airmen and special operation forces – amassed along the country’s eastern border with Russia. Ukraine’s government earlier this week ordered troops to withdraw from the Crimean peninsula. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Andrii Deshchytsia said his forces are prepared to respond if Russian troops decide to invade along the border where they are stationed.
Spanish photographer Guillermo Cervera recently spent more than two weeks in Ukraine. “It was my first time in Ukraine, and I decided to go for two main reasons: because of the ongoing problems, of course, and because I really like to photograph these old ex-Soviet Union countries, with amazing big monuments, buildings, and everything looking from Soviet times mixed with the new,” he told msnbc.
Cervera said he saw people who were more concerned with everyday life than political activism.
For Cervera, the reality on the ground is quite different from the intense conflict portrayed in the media. “The people don’t want to fight,” he told msnbc, “and everybody wants to keep going … They are brothers, and they are more concerned about their quality of life – soccer, beauty, normal life – than of being either Soviet or European.”
Crimea recently voted to join Russia and secede from Ukraine, but the Obama administration believes the vote was administered under threats of intimidation. U.S. senators have approved aid for Ukraine – $1 billion in loans and $100 million to foster security and independence.
Russian troops continued their moves to control Crimea throughout the weekend and early this week as President Obama and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte jointly committed to imposing a cost on Russia for denying sovereignty to Crimea, ahead of the Nuclear Security Summit.