What does Ukraine have to do with any of this?
Not much besides being at the center of Putin’s desire to resurrect some key features of the Soviet Union such as political domination of the region.
Just try Googling Putin and Ukraine and go from there.
Here’s one from CBC News today.
By 2004, the Russian president had dropped his early overtures to align Russia more closely with NATO and the U.S., and was set on creating an alternative Russian sphere of influence, in which Ukraine would be a key component.
No democrat himself, Putin was nonetheless still popular at home and he had his administration tutor Yanukovych on how to fix an election.
The fix was in, but it was inept. After the vote, Ukrainians of all stripes gathered at Maidan Square, and in 17 days of highly disciplined peaceful mass protest forced through a re-run of the election that Yuschenko finally won.
That was the Orange Revolution. Kuchma had ordered his military commanders to use force on the protesters, but they refused to fire on fellow-citizens.
The Games aren’t just about sports as we’ve seen repeatedly through their history, for instance the 1936 games that were supposed to highlight Nazi superiority. This is a chance for Putin to appear as a responsible world leader as his toady in the Ukraine implements his agenda there.
And while there are undoubtedly some extreme nationalist elements involved in the protest, inclined to force the issue by a more violent insurgency, Yanukovych himself, having met with Putin in Sochi, seems similarly determined to save his regime by whatever means it takes.