Ukraine announces start to “counteroffensive” while Russia warns of civil war

posted at 8:01 am on April 15, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

Ukraine’s interim government announced today that it would use force to wrest control of government buildings in its eastern provinces away from pro-Russian separatists. At the same time, Russia warned that any such use of force would amount to a “civil war” within Ukraine, with an unspoken threat of intervention on behalf of ethnic Russians hanging in the air:

The Ukrainian government announced the start of a staged counteroffensive Tuesday to reclaim control of the eastern part of the country, as Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev warned that Ukraine was descending into civil war.

Facing mounting pressure to act following the takeover of official buildings by pro-Russian separatists in at least nine cities in the restive east, acting Ukrainian President Oleksandr Turchynov said that a counterterrorism operation had begun in the northern Donetsk region early Tuesday.

Eyewitnesses and officials reported a buildup of Ukrainian forces not far from Izyum, a city located near the border of Kharkiv and Donetsk provinces in the east. The area sits a few dozen miles north of Slavyansk, which was seized by well-armed pro-Russian activists Saturday and was the site of a failed operation by Ukraine to reclaim the city on Sunday.

An Izyum official involved in the mobilization and who asked not to be named said the city was being used as a fueling and feeding station for Ukrainian troops, who had begun arriving over the weekend and were taking up positions outside the city’s limits.

So far, though, not much is happening:

Russia declared Ukraine on the brink of civil war on Tuesday as Kiev said an “anti-terrorist operation” against pro-Moscow separatists was underway, though the crackdown got off to a slow start, if at all.

Twenty-four hours after an Ukrainian ultimatum expired for the separatists to lay down their arms, witnesses reported no signs yet that Kiev forces were ready to storm state buildings in the Russian-speaking east that the rebels have occupied.

Police said separatists had voluntarily surrendered the police headquarters in the city of Kramatorsk.

Interim president Oleksander Turchinov insisted the operation had started in the eastern Donetsk region, although it would happen in stages and “in a considered way”.

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said a use of force threatened the planned summit meeting between Russia, Ukraine, and the West that intended to find a peaceful settlement of the crisis:

The four-way meeting set for Thursday involving top diplomats from Russia, Ukraine, the United States and the European Union is the latest step in a flurry of diplomacy aimed at easing the worst European security crisis in decades.

“One cannot issue invitations to talks while at the same time issuing criminal orders for the use of armed force against the people there,” Lavrov said during a visit to Beijing.

“You can’t send in tanks and at the same time hold talks, and the use of force would sabotage the opportunity offered by the four-party negotiations in Geneva,” he said.

The government in Kyiv had earlier scoffed at Russia’s participation in the summit, which drew a rather undiplomatic response from Lavrov:

In unusually strong language at a joint news conference with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi at Beijing’s Diaoyutai State Guesthouse, Lavrov denounced Kiev for “spreading lies” about Russia’s position and actions in Ukraine.

Moscow “in principle” supports the idea of four-way talks, although they must be “genuine and not merely for show,” Lavrov said.

“So, if the Ukrainian foreign ministry says Russia is afraid to hold these talks in Geneva, don’t believe it,” he said. “It’s a lie.”

Meanwhile, Barack Obama took a phone call from Vladimir Putin yesterday, which was described as “frank and direct” — and that usually means “unhappy.” Obama is still considering a new list of sanctions targets, including another member of Putin’s “crony network,” but not economy-wide sanctions — yet:

Judging by public accounts, the latest telephone call between Mr. Obama and Mr. Putin did little to bridge the divide. In the call, requested by Moscow, Mr. Obama accused Mr. Putin of trying to subvert Ukraine by fomenting takeovers of security buildings. “The president expressed grave concern about Russian government support for the actions of armed, pro-Russian separatists who threaten to undermine and destabilize the government of Ukraine,” the White House said in a statement.

Mr. Putin denied interfering in Ukraine. “Such speculations are based on inaccurate information,” the Kremlin said in a statement. Instead, he placed blame for the turmoil on Ukraine’s new pro-Western government and its “unwillingness and inability to take into account the interests of the Russian and Russian-speaking population.” …

After a weekend of meetings, the White House was working on a list of new targets who would be barred from traveling to the United States or whose assets here would be frozen, officials said. Among them is Igor Sechin, a longtime Putin ally and the president of Rosneft, the largest state-owned Russian oil company, which has a major joint venture with ExxonMobil. European ministers agreed on Monday on a list of their own.

The American sanctions would also be imposed on at least one Russian institution that is deemed part of the so-called crony network supporting Mr. Putin, officials said. But they added that Mr. Obama does not plan to place more crippling measures on whole sectors of the Russian economy unless the Kremlin escalates its actions. The White House wants to hold those sanctions in reserve should Moscow invade Ukraine or seek to annex its eastern regions.

Perhaps everyone right now is jockeying for position for Thursday’s summit. That may be Ukraine’s best opportunity to get the separatists out of their buildings without bloodshed, but it’s a long shot in any case.


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“Thanks for the flexibility….President Obama……”

Electrongod on April 15, 2014 at 8:04 AM

Obama is still considering a new list of sanctions targets, including another member of Putin’s “crony network,” but not economy-wide sanctions — yet:

I am very dubious about Obama doing any real economy-wide sanctions against Russia. He’s clearly intimidated by and afraid of Putin.

Doomberg on April 15, 2014 at 8:08 AM

Why would Putin call Obungle? He knows Obungle is a nonentity. Besides I can’t believe they aren’t in cahoots considering they are both communist.

crankyoldlady on April 15, 2014 at 8:10 AM

I pray that Obama becomes as powerless in the United States as he is abroad.

ConstantineXI on April 15, 2014 at 8:13 AM

The Russians found out that Obama the most incompetent fool think that if they call him during a crisis he thinks that he is all powerful and mighty and they can do what ever they want as long as Obama delude himself that he won because they called him… They know that this fool believes that all the ills under the sun are resolved when he speaks and no further actions are required…

mnjg on April 15, 2014 at 8:13 AM

A lot of hard breathing over this “crisis” is Ukraine. Meanwhile in Syria an actual crisis is occurring. Surprised even HA went mainstream media and is basically ignoring Syria now. But Ukraine? We get to hear reports every couple hours it seems. Wow, some police stations were taken over. Wow, an area populated by Russians wants to be annexed by Russia. Wow, NATO is toothless and Europe has no military. Such a CRISIS!

jephthah on April 15, 2014 at 8:14 AM

We get to hear reports every couple hours it seems. Wow, some police stations were taken over. Wow, an area populated by Russians wants to be annexed by Russia. Wow, NATO is toothless and Europe has no military. Such a CRISIS!

Gee, it almost makes you suspect we’re being lied to.

vlad martel on April 15, 2014 at 8:19 AM

Why would Putin call Obungle? He knows Obungle is a nonentity. Besides I can’t believe they aren’t in cahoots considering they are both communist.

crankyoldlady on April 15, 2014 at 8:10 AM

To inform him of the partition agreement Putin reached with Merkel….and tell Captain Planet to butt out of it.

workingclass artist on April 15, 2014 at 8:21 AM

Luv the phone call being “frank and direct”. I submit that Pootin was ‘Frank and direct’, The One, ‘Lenny and cringing’.

vnvet on April 15, 2014 at 8:23 AM

The Russians found out that Obama the most incompetent fool think that if they call him during a crisis he thinks that he is all powerful and mighty and they can do what ever they want as long as Obama delude himself that he won because they called him… They know that this fool believes that all the ills under the sun are resolved when he speaks and no further actions are required…

mnjg on April 15, 2014 at 8:13 AM

Does Hussein’s mother in law listen when he barks?

Neither does Putin.

ConstantineXI on April 15, 2014 at 8:26 AM

By the end of this year, Ukraine will no longer exist. The question will then be will Russia stop at the borders of the Soviet Union, or will it (re)absorb Finland and Eastern/Central Poland?

Steve Eggleston on April 15, 2014 at 8:27 AM

New meme supporting partition of Ukraine…(saw this coming from the beginning)

“Ukraine solution: West should back off and support partition”

Read more: http://www.theweek.co.uk/world-news/ukraine/57546/ukraine-solution-west-should-back-and-support-partition#ixzz2yxPAaqqs

workingclass artist on April 15, 2014 at 8:29 AM

I’m afraid Merkel and the other EU countries are doing a Neville Chamberlain. Reminds one an awful lot of the 1930′s.

crankyoldlady on April 15, 2014 at 8:32 AM

And what is Europe prepared to do?

rbj on April 15, 2014 at 8:34 AM

And what is Europe prepared to do?

rbj on April 15, 2014 at 8:34 AM

Roll over and display its neck.

Steve Eggleston on April 15, 2014 at 8:36 AM

“I’m afraid Merkel and the other EU countries are doing a Neville Chamberlain. Reminds one an awful lot of the 1930′s”

crankyoldlady

Don’t kid yourself, the Russian Army isn’t exactly the Wehrmacht. They were the most professional and most advanced military in the world by 1939. Just because there is a parallel to German seizure of German speaking lands in the 1930′s doesn’t mean it’s the same or will have the same outcomes.

jephthah on April 15, 2014 at 8:40 AM

Don’t kid yourself, the Russian Army isn’t exactly the Wehrmacht. They were the most professional and most advanced military in the world by 1939. Just because there is a parallel to German seizure of German speaking lands in the 1930′s doesn’t mean it’s the same or will have the same outcomes.

jephthah on April 15, 2014 at 8:40 AM

I think he wants to restore the Soviet Union and Germany and them will let him do it.

crankyoldlady on April 15, 2014 at 8:55 AM

“anti-terrorist operation” against pro-Moscow separatists

“Terrorist” has officially become a weasel word. That’s good, it was always kind of a self-serving word. Now we can call our enemies by more specific titles.

Buddahpundit on April 15, 2014 at 9:03 AM

“anti-terrorist operation” against pro-Moscow separatists
“Terrorist” has officially become a weasel word. That’s good, it was always kind of a self-serving word. Now we can call our enemies by more specific titles.
Buddahpundit on April 15, 2014 at 9:03 AM

Bush referred to the. 9/11 attackers as terrorists. I called them muslims.

ConstantineXI on April 15, 2014 at 9:06 AM

Don’t kid yourself, the Russian Army isn’t exactly the Wehrmacht. They were the most professional and most advanced military in the world by 1939. Just because there is a parallel to German seizure of German speaking lands in the 1930′s doesn’t mean it’s the same or will have the same outcomes.
jephthah on April 15, 2014 at 8:40 AM

Compared to what opposes him, Putins army might as well be the Wehrmacht.

Britain and France have no forces at all compared to what they had in 1939.

ConstantineXI on April 15, 2014 at 9:09 AM

I wonder if they saved and stored the material for that wall that came down in the late 80′s…..

We saved the Styrofoam Greek columns…..

Electrongod on April 15, 2014 at 9:17 AM

I think he wants to restore the Soviet Union and Germany and them will let him do it.

crankyoldlady on April 15, 2014 at 8:55 AM

Considering the goal is not the Soviet Union’s borders, but the Russian Empire’s circa 1904, I’d expect Molotov-Ribbentrop II out of the Germans, only with the Russians getting Warsaw and hanging onto East Prussia.

Steve Eggleston on April 15, 2014 at 9:23 AM

Europe is a goose so fat it can no longer fly but the barbed wire fence it lived behind has rusted away and the farmer has paid little attention while the wolves gathered. If you are old enough, you will remember Henry Kissinger’s comments about a “Pitiful helpless Giant”. The past is also prologue as they say.

KW64 on April 15, 2014 at 9:31 AM

By the end of this year, Ukraine will no longer exist. The question will then be will Russia stop at the borders of the Soviet Union, or will it (re)absorb Finland and Eastern/Central Poland?

Steve Eggleston on April 15, 2014 at 8:27 AM

I think Putin will advance until something stops him. Remember their motto of “Advance. If you find mush keep going. If you find steel, stop.”

KW64 on April 15, 2014 at 9:35 AM

I think Putin will advance until something stops him. Remember their motto of “Advance. If you find mush keep going. If you find steel, stop.”

KW64 on April 15, 2014 at 9:35 AM

Normally, I would say that water would stop Putin, but something tells me he wants Alaska, Washington State, Oregon and northern California back too.

Steve Eggleston on April 15, 2014 at 9:49 AM

I am still not concerned. However, the world is pivoting to contain the US.

antisense on April 15, 2014 at 10:01 AM

I think Putin will advance until something stops him. Remember their motto of “Advance. If you find mush keep going. If you find steel, stop.”

KW64 on April 15, 2014 at 9:35 AM

I agree. If by ‘steel’ you mean a shooting war with NATO. Which is why this is not like Hitler. Hitler was reckless; Putin bides his time and exploits opportunities.

Fenris on April 15, 2014 at 10:07 AM

When you partition Ukraine, you’ll want to make sure that there is no possibility of a loyalty problem on your side of the border which means you need to ethnically cleanse up to the border. Remove all the cancer cells away from the healthy flesh. When Crimea was happening, you needed to cleanse eastern Ukraine of Russian loyalists. Then you’d still have all of Ukraine. Instead you sit there stomping your feet and having a ridicule offensive against Putin.

Buddahpundit on April 15, 2014 at 10:11 AM

“You can’t send in tanks and at the same time hold talks, and the use of force would sabotage the opportunity offered by the four-party negotiations in Geneva,” he said.

Who does Lavrov think he is fooling? The only country to send in tanks was Russia…into Crimea.

The Putin method is to send in tanks and NOT hold talks…

Meanwhile, if Ukrainian forces are using tanks, perhaps NATO should give them more tanks. They will probably need them.

Steve Z on April 15, 2014 at 10:23 AM

Just my thoughts on this business.

Oldnuke on April 15, 2014 at 10:23 AM

Not much different that what’s happening on our southern border, ours is just moving in slower motion. The Open Borders must be very happy with the enlightened progress in Ukraine.

Socratease on April 15, 2014 at 10:40 AM

Ukraine’s interim government announced today that it would use force to wrest control of government buildings in its eastern provinces away from pro-Russian separatists. At the same time, Russia warned that any such use of force would amount to a “civil war” within Ukraine, with an unspoken threat of intervention on behalf of ethnic Russians hanging in the air . . . . .

Ed Morrissey on April 15, 2014 at 8:01 AM

.
Translation : . . . . . “Hey Ukraine … you have a choice … you can either let yourself be taken over the the ethic Russian rebels, or we’re coming in with our full military might, and take you over.”

listens2glenn on April 15, 2014 at 10:43 AM

Regular people in Donetsk stopped a Ukrainian tank. I see little support for this overreaction from Kiev.

antisense on April 15, 2014 at 11:03 AM

Whose word do we have as to what Obungle said to Putin? The White House?

crankyoldlady on April 15, 2014 at 3:04 PM