The protesters that flooded Kiev’s Maidan Square in February, leading to the overthrow of Russian-backed president Viktor Yanukovych and sparking the Russian invasion of Eastern Ukraine, were initially motivated by their government’s rejection of an economic and political pact with the European Union. Russian President Vladimir Putin has long been desperate to keep Ukraine out of the EU’s orbit and waged a months-long campaign, consisting of threats and economic sanctions, to achieve his goal. Instead, Putin wants the former Soviet state to join a Eurasian Customs Union with Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan. Russia and the EU each buy about one-quarter of all Ukrainian exports every year. Losing either market would be devastating to the fragile Ukrainian economy. Still, most credible analysis suggests that over the long run, a deal with Europe would be much better for Ukraine than one with the Eurasian Customs Union.
(Source: Peterson Institute for International Economics)