Ukrainian forces are reportedly making steady progress against the pro-Russian rebels, the New York Times reports:
With a fierce onslaught of gunfire and mortar shelling, Ukrainian government forces on Saturday expelled pro-Russian insurgents from Slovyansk, a long-blockaded rebel stronghold, government officials and separatist leaders said.
After rebels fled the city, the scene of some of the fiercest battles throughout the insurrection, government forces raised the blue-and-yellow Ukrainian national flag above the City Council building.
As this continues, Ukraine is achieving something that Washington diplomacy alone could not: it is putting Putin in an ugly place.If the advances continue and the rebels scatter and run—and thus far, they do not seem to be a particularly courageous or well-organized group—Putin will have to make a choice: either let the rebellion be crushed, vastly bolstering the prestige of the Kiev government and making the Kremlin look like a loser, or intervene to help the rebels more openly, a move that could push the Europeans into enacting much tougher sanctions. Either way, he will end up paying a much higher cost for his Ukraine policy than he wants to, or than he can really afford.Putin will no doubt continue to try to square the circle: he will attempt to strengthen the rebels without triggering greater sanctions. But continued success on the battlefield may force his hand, and make him choose between expensive isolation or the humiliating defeat he richly deserves.There’s a lesson for us all here: Even in the 21st century, success on the battlefield matters.