SALT LAKE CITY — President Putin suggested this week Ukraine isn't really an authentic independent state, which Marjorie Castle, a professor in the political science department at the University of Utah says is simply untrue.
"There were several falsehoods in what he said. Ukraine is a nation," said Castle.
The CIA World Factbook reports Ukraine's national identity goes back eleven hundred years when it was the center of the largest and most powerful state in Europe, called Kyivan Rus.
Ukraine has its own language, spoken by more than two thirds of citizens, with about thirty percent speaking Russian first.
In what seems like a cruel nod to its history, the name "Ukraine," is an old Slavic word meaning borderland or military border region, according to the CIA Factbook.
While second in significance to Russia among the Soviet Socialist Republics Ukraine produced more than a quarter of the Soviet Union's agricultural output.
But the Ukrainian people voted to create a Democracy as the Soviet Union crumbled in 1991. Castle says it's a democracy that has taken root in recent years.
"Ukraine has had this peaceful transfer of power. It has significant freedom of speech freedom of association and rule of law," Castle said.
Today, Ukraine occupies the second largest land mass in Europe. Russia is largest.
Ukraine has Europe's eight largest population. Russia has the largest.
If Russia occupies Ukraine, it will greatly expand it's direct contact with NATO member states, because Ukraine borders Slovakia, Hungary, and Romania.