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20 March 2014
The Australian immigration minister Julie Bishop has announced that Ukrainians in Australia will be able to extend their visas; the political instability in their home Country means that it may be unsafe to go home.
Ms Bishop was speaking on 5th March 20014 as the crisis in the Ukraine intensified. She issued a statement saying that Ukrainians currently in the country may apply to have their visas extended if they expire.
'Subsequent applications may also be made if the situation of unrest in the Ukraine is further deemed by the government at that time to warrant a further extension'.
But Russia was extremely unhappy the talks between Ukraine and the EU, which it sees as being part of its 'sphere of influence'. Russia's concern is shared by many ethnic Russian Ukrainian citizens. Mr Yanukovych's Party of the Regions is largely supported by ethnic Russians.
The party obstructed progress on the EU deal in the Ukrainian parliament throughout 2013 and, in November, Mr Yanukovych walked away from the negotiating table. In December, he instead signed a deal with Russia. Russia promised Ukraine $15bn in loans and discounts on Russian natural gas for five years.
Protests continued through January and February. On 20th and 21st February, at least 88 people were killed when gunmen shot into the crowds.
On 21st February, Mr Yanukovych signed a deal with the opposition promising early elections but the unrest continued unabated and, on 22nd February, the president fled. Since then, demonstrators have entered his luxurious properties in the Ukraine and uncovered what they say is evidence of corruption on a spectacular scale.
It certainly seems to be true that there are some extreme right wing supporters of the uprising against Mr Yanukovych but it also has widespread popular support, both among ethnic Ukrainians and many ethnic Russians.
On 28th February, 28th President Putin sent troops into the Crimean peninsula in order to 'protect' the ethnic Russian population. A referendum held on Sunday 16th March backed a proposal for the Crimea to secede from Ukraine and join Russia. The Crimean government has since applied to join the Russian Federation.
The Ukrainian government has said that it will 'never accept' the annexation of Crimea. UK foreign secretary William Hague has condemned Russia and has said that the EU does not regard the referendum as either 'legal or legitimate'.
There are now concerns in the US and the EU that Russia may seek to use similar tactics in the eastern provinces of Ukraine where there are also substantial numbers of ethnic Russians.
President Obama has already signed an executive order which will revoke US visas issued to any Russians and Ukrainians who have been directly involved in destabilising the Ukraine. The EU has announced similar steps.
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