It does not really matter who would win the elections in Ukraine. Whenever it will be Yushchenko - the supporter of westernization of Ukraine or Yanukovich - a puppet of Putin and Kuchma, both of them would deal with a deeply divided country.
Ukraine is the biggest country of Europe
Not too many people realize that Ukraine is the biggest country in Europe by area, with the size over 233 thousand sq miles and the population over 52 mln people. See the detailed map of Ukraine and also the map of Ukraine in respect to other European countries to see its size. Ukraine is bigger than France in size and similar in population to Great Britain. This is hard to believe considering that Ukraine is not really known very well in Europe, especially in Western Europe. It is not taken really seriously as a state by anybody in spite of its long and turbulent history.
Ukraine is located on the crossroads of Europe
The fate of the Ukraine is really important for Europe. Ukraine is located just on the crossroads of Europe, between Poland (NATO and EU country) but right on Russia's doorstep. Ukraine is also the mixture of religions - people who live in Ukraine are Roman Catholic, Eastern rite Catholics, but the majority belongs to the Orthodox Church. Ukraine as a name means just a borderland.
Ukraine is a deeply divided country with long and difficult history
Ukraine is commonly divided into two regions, Western Ukraine (Eastern Galicia) and Eastern Ukraine (Little Russia)
Whereas Poland and EU countries want Ukraine to expand its relations with the rest of Europe - Russia would like to strengthen relationship with Ukraine to the point that the both countries would form some kind of union. Many people believe that Russia lost its position as superpower because it lost Ukraine! The truth is that a quarter of Ukraine population - about 12 mln people are Russians or identify themselves as Russians. They live mainly in the eastern part of Ukraine, the region which was industrially developed during the Soviet times as well as Crimea and Black Sea coast. People from Eastern industrial regions (Donetsk, Dnipropetrovsk) are characterised by either Russian or Soviet mentality. They speak Russian, feel Russian and would not mind if Ukraine would be united with Russia again. On the other hand people in the Eastern part of Ukraine developed strong feelings of national identity as Ukrainians. Because of that Ukraine was suffering - during sovietization as well as during the World War II. Tragically as it is Ukrainians were on both sides of the front during War World II, their human losses are the highest after Jews and gipsies as a percentage of population (about 20%).
Short course on Ukraine's History
From the 9th century AD, northern Ukraine was part of Kievan Rus which was the first significant East Slavic state. Many Russians believe that Kievan Rus is the cradle of the whole Russian civilization - Russians, Little Russians (Ukrainians) and White Russians (Belarus). In 988, Russia was Christianized under Vladimir and assimilated into the religion of eastern Orthodoxy.
During XIII century Ukraine was weakened mainly by Mongols invasions. Weakened Ukraine attracted attentions of its neighbors - Lithuania, Poland and Russia. For centuries Ukraine was divided between Russia and later established Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.
Brave Kozaks (Cossacks) emerge in a response to Ukraine subjugation. Kozaks rebelled from Polish rule, they earned a reputation for their fierce martial spirit. Kozaks tried to liberate Russia from any foreign subjugation.
# During the XIX century Ukraine was divided between Russia and Austria. During Bolshevik revolution Ukraine declared independence but its statehood was short-lived.
Stalin punished Ukraine more than other regions of Soviet Union, millions of people died in Ukraine famine in years 1932-33 during the process of compulsory collectivization and fighting against "kulaks". Ukraine famine is additionally dramatic because Ukraine is blessed with fertile soil and many mineral resources.
During the World War II Ukrainians were fighting on both fronts and they were punished terribly for it. The Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) waged war against both the Nazis and the Soviets, their main aim was the independence of Ukraine. In June, 1941, the leadership of the OUN declared the reestablishment of the independence of Ukraine. The UPA was also known for killing hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians - also Poles (especially in Volyn) who lived on the same territories as Ukrainians. Some Ukrainians served in Galicia Division which was a part of SS with Nazi, many millions served in Red Army against German invasion.
The remnants of UPA army still fought after the war in Southeastern part of Poland in the region of Eastern Carpathians (Bieszczady mountains). Because of that Poles forced the whole Ukrainian population to relocate to the western parts of Poland (during the action "Vistula"). The whole villages were completely deserted.
1986, Infamous Chernobyl nuclear disaster took place in Ukraine. Please, read about Chernobyl Accident & Chernobyl's Polish Connection. Read also about Polish-Russian relations and about Poland in world politics.
The independence of Ukraine was declared on August 24, 1991, and confirmed in a referendum by 90 percent of the population on the first of December. Still, the only way to gain the full independence from Russia and Russian mentality may be to split Ukraine and let some of the regions to join Russia. Especially since some of the lands were given to Ukraine generously after October Revolution (for instance Crimea region and Odessa) since communists did not realize that any Soviet lands would ever dare to split away from the mother Russia.
Borderland: A Journey Through the History of Ukraine by Anna Reid