Moscow won’t admit it, but Russia is at war with Ukraine.
It’s hard to draw any other conclusion from reports that Russian regular forces have moved into eastern Ukraine and are attacking Ukrainian military units amid a flare-up of violence this past week.
New reports indicate that eight civilians were killed after a mortar shell fell in Donetsk, mere hours after the foreign ministers of Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France agreed on a “buffer zone” to cut down on the violence.
All the while, Russia continues to insist that separatist forces in Donetsk and Luhansk are independent of Russian control and military support. But Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk has made clear how ludicrous this assertion is: “Tanks, GRAD multiple rocket systems, BUK and SMERCH systems, radio electronic intelligence systems are not sold at local Donetsk street markets. Only the Russian army and Defense Ministry have them.”
The BUK system that Yatsenyuk mentions is the missile platform that shot down Malaysian Airlines flight 17 over Ukraine this past July, killing 298 innocent civilians.
So far, Russian assistance to the separatists has mostly taken the form of advanced military equipment and paramilitary forces to advise and assist local rebels.
But now, Russia is reported to have moved two battalions of regular troops across the border, with three more battalions of motorized infantry and an artillery division on the way.
That’s translates into potentially a thousand soldiers.
Russia can continue to feign ignorance, but this constitutes the most dangerous, deeply irresponsible escalation of violence and tensions in Ukraine since a little-observed ceasefire was signed in September.
With his economy in shambles and increasingly politically isolated from West, Putin seems determined to bring Ukraine down with him.