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High Noon in Eastern Ukraine

The Pentagon has announced a plan to send military trainers into Ukraine to train Kiev’s forces in their fight against pro-Russia separatists like the Donetsk People’s Republic. But just as the U.S. is getting involved, things may be going from bad to worse.

Today, the Ukrainian military urged the civilian residents of Donetsk, the stronghold of pro-Russian forces, to evacuate in anticipation of a showdown between Kiev and the rebels. The Washington Post reports:

The Ukrainian military on Monday urged residents of Donetsk to evacuate amid reports of increased rebel attacks on civilians and to clear the way for government troops to advance on one of the insurgency’s biggest strongholds.

The military has opened extra humanitarian corridors out of eastern Ukraine’s regional capital, and the government will help evacuees to find temporary shelter, said Andriy Lysenko, a military spokesman.

Over the weekend, government troops cut off a northern route that had been used by the pro-Russian separatists who control the city to bring in reinforcements of fighters and supplies, Lysenko said. The military now has the city, ruled by the rebels’ self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, almost completely encircled.

In Ukraine, the line between militia and army is a fine one: Large swathes of the Ukrainian military have minimal training, and are funded by individual oligarchs. A war between these forces and the separatists in a densely populated city is likely to get ugly.

We have written before about how Putin becomes more, rather than less, defiant when he is backed into a corner. Even if he is given another “off ramp” now, he is unlikely to take it—and as the world already knows, he will act decisively and brutally if he thinks his interests are being threatened.

Many signs are pointing to a much more serious confrontation—and soon. And that’s the point that all talk of “crisis” and “confrontation” gets replaced with a far more accurate term: “war.”

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  • Thirdsyphon

    Putin’s established pattern of doubling down on bad results is likely to be repeated once again, so overt intervention by the Russian military is certainly a possibility that should be considered. The Russian public might support such a move, but only because they anticipate a repetition of Putin’s easy victory in Crimea. That’s unlikely to happen, and the Russian public’s collective disappointment as the harsh realities of invading and occupying a foreign country (i.e.: of war) start to sink in may start to loosen Putin’s grasp on power.

  • FVS

    With the dubious cease fire in Ukraine having been abandoned (by both sides) the Ukrainian national forces are making good on their promise to either drive out the armed separatists or force them into submission. There success in Slavyansk has the separatist screaming genocide and begging Putin to intervene.

    Well one man’s “genocide” is another man’s “collateral damage”. Russians crying about genocide in Ukraine is the stupidest irony I have heard yet. Seems the Ukrainians have neither forgotten nor forgiven the Holdomor. And why should they? It should be shoved in the Russian’s face every day. If Putin wants to be the new Lenin and make Russia the new USSR let him, but let him do it in Russia and leave the rest of the world alone.

    And no my position has nothing to do with Obama’s foolish international policy or international gamesmanship or Israel or anything or anyone else. It has to do with history and that most basic of human desires to be free. To be free to pursue life, liberty and happiness in whatever way suits their desires and talents. Free to do so without restraining the liberty of others or having their liberty similarly restrained by others from their own nation or government or by outside forces.

    Virtually every people that live in lands bordering Russia, from the Arctic Ocean to the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea to the Caspian Sea and across central Asia have dreamed, fought, struggled and died to be free of the yoke of Russian imperialism, be it in the form of Czars, commissars or now Putin’s neo-fascist bureaucracy and shock troops. They just want to be free and left the hell alone. Their attitude is if the ethnic Russians who live in their now free nations want to be Russian nationals again, let them pack their things and go to Russia. Their being used as political cudgels against the former Russian vassal states is no different than Hitler’s tactics against Czechoslovakia and Poland in the 1930’s.

    Does this mean that the Ukrainian people, their government or their military forces are free of human failures and weakness? Of course not, war is a terrible thing and imperfect people do terrible inhuman things to each other. But that does not raise the artillery shelling on one small city in eastern Ukraine to the level of genocide any more than the destruction of the German Army Group B in the Falaise pocket or the carpet bombing of German industrial centers in the Rhur valley were acts of genocide.

  • lukelea

    The US would be wise to keep the crisis in Ukraine at arms length.

    • f1b0nacc1

      Let me offer a small modification to your comment. The US should have done what might be possible to discourage Russian intervention in the Ukraine before the crisis began, but now that it has….well, we should keep it at arm’s length and avoid starting fights that we cannot and will not finish

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