Sunday, 25 January 2015

Ukranian Redux

Aftermath of the offensive at Donetsk's airport
Earlier this summer I wrote about how Russia's role in the Ukrainian crisis had escalated to the point where the two countries were in a de facto state of war.  Since then various geopolitical events have threatened to overshadow the ongoing insurgency in eastern regions of the country, but a recent renewal of an offensive against rebels in Donetsk thrust the spotlight back on both the region and Russian interference in it.  In fact, some of the images and videos coming out of Mariupol, which was first attacked this past summer but has seen renewed fighting in recent days, are a disturbing insight into daily life under what is almost certainly Russian bombardment.
  


This dashcam video purports to show the driver narrowly escaping an artillery strike.  The truck in front was not as fortunate.  Other videos by residents clearly convey what seems to be a city under siege. (Update: As of the 25th of January, the video has been removed due to copyright)
   








There is increasingly strong evidence that the western sanctions regime and plunge in oil prices have done little to impede Russian ambitions in eastern Ukraine.  As the New York Times wrote:

"With the appearance in recent weeks of what NATO calls sophisticated Russian weapons systems, newly emboldened separatist leaders have abandoned all talk of a cease-fire."


  As my previous post on the subject stated, it is very likely that the Kremlin is backing insurgents in hopes of asserting some degree of influence over the eastern and southern regions of Ukraine, host to the roads which serve as Russia's only land-based lifeline to Crimea.  A successful push along the southern coast would at best allow Russia to annex a swathe of territory which extends to breakaway regions of Moldova, or more plausibly, de facto Russian hegemony over the aforementioned territories within the framework of a federalized Ukraine.

Further implicating the Russian government were images released by the Ukrainian government which purported to show documents taken from captured Russian mercenaries.

"The National Security and Defence Council recently reported that Ukrainian artillery destroyed a column of Russian mercenaries near Donetsk airport and detained more than 10 of them" 
- Sheila Casey, State Department attache for Ukraine  

Despite strong words from the United States government, there doesn't seem to be a clear path forward.  With the United States and its allies slowly escalating their role in the fight against ISIS, there just doesn't seem to be much of an appetite for substantial action against the Russian government.  That said however, European Union economic sanctions on Russia come up for renewal soon, and if there was talk about easing them before, such talk is now gone.  Latvia and other eastern European states, citing a negotiated ceasfire signed in Minsk which was broken by rebels early last week, are in some cases now pressing for even harsher sanctions.  All the while, open warfare rages in the cities of Eastern Ukraine.  Some more photos of the recent devestation which left at least 30 dead: