Today the conflict between Ukraine and Russia took a dangerous but somewhat organic turn. In a long-awaited show of force, the Ukrainian government looked to take back some of the gains made by pro-Russian militia/pro-Russian citizens/Russian Army. Jet fighters were flown low over the streets. Tanks finally showed up. As they got farther East things got dicey In a YouTube video tweeted by the Wall street Journal’s Tom Gara, Ukrainian tanks were commandeered by Russian supporters and made to do donuts in the streets. Something most people did not know a tank could do. Multiple tanks were surrounded and the soldiers in the tanks just walked off and eventually raised a Russian flag above at least one of the tanks According to Ari Shapiro International Correspondent for NPR.
In an interview on All in With Chris Hayes on MSNBC, Hayes mentioned seeing video of a Commander in the Russian Army introducing himself as a Russian officer, which was not happening a couple of weeks ago. The Ukraine that we knew is no more at this point. Ari Shapiro also painted a very vivid picture of the state of mind of the Ukrainian soldiers. As they rolled in, he said, they were dirty, hungry and demoralized. After locals offered them water and food and conversation it was suggested that they fly a Russian flag over one of the tanks. So in a bizarre type of Stockholm Syndrome, the Ukrainian soldiers decided that flying a Russian flag over a Ukrainian tank was a prudent thing to do. Before today there was some plausible deniability for the Russians, more specifically Vladimir Putin, that the occupations of Kharkiv, Slaviansk, Kramatorsk, Luhansk, and Donetsk were the result of proud ethnic Russians not feeling represented in Kiev. No longer can Putin say that with a straight face.
Reuters reported that as tanks rolled more east one tank with 15 soldiers in it was surrounded and made to hand over the firing pins of to their rifles to a rebel commander. Granted they were in the eastern part of the country. The fact that people must accept these actions as making sense shows that this country is on its way to literally and emotionally being split in two. Not a shot has been fired. One wonders whether a shot being fired would force the countries directly and indirectly involve to take a solid position and hasten the end of this conflict. Putin’s one definite move was annexing Crimea, effectively guaranteeing the Ukraine we knew was going to be no more. What a brilliant move it was.
This is not Russia’s first time in the propaganda rodeo. This is not the first time Russia has been a main character in a dispute like this either. Lots of Russians were killed by Nazi Germany. Putin has flooded the Russian airwaves with constant rhetoric claiming that Kiev is being run by fascist thugs.
Russia Today, a Russian news channel that basically is the de facto propaganda arm for Putin and his administration, in response to the taking down of Lenin statues by protesters, said “Exit Communism. Enter Nazism?” very big leap to take by what’s supposed to be a balanced news channel.
So with a steady stream of Russian nationalism, mixed with a well-timed and well placed annexation of “lost comrades,” followed by fear mongering, Putin didn’t have to really lift a finger to get half of Ukraine. Crimea being mostly Russian, losing that part of the country was a hurt to the ego but as far as the mainland of the Ukraine that we know it is no more. It was almost like he had sleeper cells in Ukraine for years who were just waiting for the sign to put Operation Slow-Takeover into effect. Masked militia with no country patches and plain clothes show up out of nowhere with vans full of tires and barbed wire? Those are not things that regular citizens usually horde. Until today, Putin could pass it off as an organic uprising. What the rest of the world has to hope and pray for is that he cares about not seeming completely detached from reality and stops the cloak and dagger takeover of a country that is not his or Russia’s.
Commentary by Daryl McElveen