As a result of a perpetually deteriorating situation in South Eastern Ukraine, acting intern president Oleksandr Turchynov has announced that the Ukrainian military is now on full combat alert. These developments come alongside the announcement of new military drills that will take place in central Kiev.
In response, Russia has called the announcement “militaristic.” Russia’s foreign ministry went on to say that Ukraine ought to halt making such statements. It is the ministry’s positions that they only serve to intimidate Ukrainian citizens.
However, President Turchynov has warned that the threat of a full scale Russian invasion remains real. There is a fear within the Ukrainian government that Russia is on the verge on using staged unrest in the country’s South East as a launching point for justifying a full scale invasion. Some of the fears come from the fact that there are some 40,000 Russian troops along their mutual border with Ukraine that President Vladimir Putin has been given the authority to send into Ukraine.
Russia claims that this authority is reserved for defending Russian speakers in Ukraine. Critics are quick to point out that this was the same sort of justification that was used to annex Crimea, and thus they argue that Russia will use the same logic to annex sections of Ukraine.
Adding to the already difficult situation is the violent unrest in the region. Ukraine claims that its military is on full combat alert because the perpetrators of the violence are in fact Russian citizens and military officers that are acting on the behest of Russia. They support these claims with photographs and wiretaps that apparently show direct Russian involvement.
For its part, Russia has denied any involvement in the crisis, saying that the claims are entirely unfounded. It is their position that unrest is based on popular disdain for the Kiev government. Furthermore, they argue that the individuals causing the unrest are not Russian, but rather “Pro-Russian protesters.”
Despite that, these supposed protesters are heavily armed and some are demonstrably in direct communication with Kiev. As well, these individuals have taken journalists and military overseers hostage and have set up military style checkpoints. Western officials have continued to point to Moscow as the primary force behind the unrest and the violent conduct of its perpetrators.
In fact, as a military force, these individuals have created a significant problem for Ukraine. President Turchynov has admitted that Ukraine is not capable of removing the threat as it currently exists. Speaking frankly, he admitted that the goal of Ukraine’s defense forces are primarily to contain the situation and to stop it from spreading.
As a result of tensions flaring even further, diplomatic pressures and sanctions have been issued against Russia and many within Putin’s inner circles. Furthermore, NATO forces have strengthened their presence in the region with land, air, and sea assets being sent to the region to counter Russia’s potential forces. Nations such as Poland have expressed fear that Russia might invade all of Ukraine and proceed to do the same to various other European nations.
Those considerations in conjunction with Ukraine announcing that its military is now on full combat alert, many are worried that it will serve to embolden Russia’s position. However, as a potential bright note, Western leaders and Putin have agreed that the only solutions to this crisis should be diplomatic. Whether or not that turns out to be the case may perhaps be another story.
By Brett Byers-Lane