Part of the territory of the Ukraine is the Crimean peninsula so, yes, this is going to be mainly about the Crimean War. The name of the Crimean War is such a familiar one, with its overtones of Charge of the Light Brigade and Florence Nightingale and so on, that it’s sometimes easy to forget that the Crimea isn’t one of the usual battlefields we’ve been fighting on for centuries. It’s right in the north of the Black Sea.
Nevertheless, the details of the main fighting in the Crimea and surrounding territory, unlike some of the fighting on other fronts, like the Baltic, are well known, so I’ll cover it only in brief here.
To begin with, the Russians had been pushing back the Turks in Europe and we weren’t very happy about the growth in Russian power and its increasing proximity to the Med. So we and the French demanded the Russians get out of Moldavia (Moldova) and Wallachia (part of Romania; it sounds like the kind of place vampires might hang out, so it won’t come as a huge surprise that Vlad III Dracula was indeed Voivode of Wallachia).
We ended up declaring war on Russia, and when it didn’t look like we could give the Russians a knockout punch in the Balkans (very painful) or in the Baltics (also very painful) we decided on the bold, and, as it turned out, too bold, move of invading the Crimea.
On 24 September 1854 we won the Battle of the Alma, but didn’t succeed in pressing on and taking the key strategic target Sevastopol. The Russians then hit back with the Battle of Sevastopol on 24 October (which included the Charge of the Light Brigade) and the Battle of Inkerman on 5 November. Plenty of fireworks on that day. The Russians lost both battles, but we lost significant numbers of men. While not totally disastrous for us, it still was all looking rather grim and miserable, and it started looking even grimmer and more miserable when winter arrived.
In May 1855, we made another landing in the Crimea, this time at Kerch, but that didn’t lead to a breakthrough either. Eventually, in August, the Russians lost the Battle of Tchernaya, and in September, after the French had finally taken the fortifications on Malakoff Hill, Sevastopol fell. Both sides in the war were sick of it by now, and in 1856 a peace was signed in which Russia gave in on a number of key points, including reinstating Turkish control over the mouth of the Danube.
Small numbers of our troops, in the shape of an armoured car squadron, were back in action in Ukraine in the First World War. This time they were fighting on the same side as the Russians, not against them, and in this case they were trying to invade territory held by the Austrians.