During the Cold War, the Soviets used a propaganda technique best described by the psychological term projection. Whenever the US exposed the Soviet use of a particular illegal tactic or strategy, the Soviets would always respond that it was the US employing that particular violation, and that the Soviets opposed it and demanded a stop to it. This turned out to be a rather successful propaganda ploy, as it enabled all of the moral relativists to keep insisting that there was no qualitative difference across the Iron Curtain, and that the sooner we admitted that, the better we would be able to live in peaceful coexistence.

Happy days are here again:

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Wednesday that Russia has “very strong” suspicions U.S. mercenaries are operating in Ukraine.

In an interview with Bloomberg News, Lavrov said he relayed a message to Washington asking for a response to these rumors, which were first reported by a German newspaper.

Lavrov referred to people in Ukraine wearing black uniforms with no identification, who some think are affiliated with the radical ultranationalist group the Right Sector. He also referred to reports that 400 mercenaries are operating in Ukraine.

“I sent a message from ambassador to Washington asking him to respond to these assertions from the German media,” he said. “Rumors to this effect were spread even before and [Secretary of State] John Kerry rejected them. Now they popped up again, and we’d like to see whether this is true or not.”

Let’s not forget that Vladimir Putin already admitted that the insignia-free uniformed troops in Crimea were Russian military, despite earlier denials. The so-called “pro-Russian separatists” in eastern Ukraine are widely believed to be of similar origin, as is their source of weaponry and leadership. This attempt by Lavrov to pass off opposing militias as American mercenaries is rather laughable, but uncomfortably … nostalgic.

Ukraine’s political class met today to hash out an end to the crisis, and they pointedly did not include the aforementioned “pro-Russian separatists” to participate:

Ukrainian politicians and civil groups gathered on Wednesday for talks on how to quell a pro-Russian rebellion in the east, but Kiev’s refusal to let separatists take part cast doubt on whether the meeting could defuse the crisis.

The talks come at a tense moment for Kiev. On Tuesday, seven soldiers were killed in an ambush near the eastern city of Kramatorsk, the deadliest attack on security forces since they were sent to tackle the uprising in April. …

Participants are expected to explore methods of devolving power to allow greater local autonomy which Kiev hopes will address disaffection in eastern Ukraine.

However, Kiev has excluded rebels, whom it terms as “terrorists”, from the round table discussions, drawing criticism from abroad. Moscow has said there should be direct talks between separatists and Kiev.

“We are ready for talks with everyone who has legitimate political goals and is ready to pursue them by legal means, with those who do not have blood on their hands,” acting President Oleksander Turchinov and Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk said in a joint statement.

Perhaps they are considering the use of the election as a moot for the referenda. They could just ignore the rogue vote from last Sunday, which most nations have already done, and hope that the national election on May 25th eclipses them. If the government in Kyiv can manage to hold a reasonably competent election under the circumstances and have local and regional governments elected that work toward integration rather than secession, it would be a powerful answer to the rebels and their provocateurs.

That’s a mighty big if, though, and it doesn’t mean that the rebels will go away either. Expect them to disrupt the elections as much as possible, unless the Kyiv government can retake control over the Luhansk and Donetsk regions. But perhaps Russia has begun to question whether it has gone too far already. The chair of the Russian Duma wants the May 25th elections to go forward, even if troubles arise:

But Lavrov, in an interview with Bloomberg Television, also said Russia has “no intention” of sending troops into Ukraine, despite fears in Europe and the West that it might invade following Ukraine’s presidential and mayoral elections scheduled for May 25.

A top Russian legislator spoke out Wednesday in favor of the elections, even as questions remained over whether they would be allowed to proceed in swaths of eastern Ukraine that called this week for annexation by Russia.

Duma Chairman Sergei Naryshkin told Russian television that voting in Ukraine would lack full legitimacy but that “not holding the elections is even a sadder situation,” the Interfax news agency reported.

We’ll see what they say if the results favor Kyiv, or if voter intimidation turns out to be so bad in these regions that it provides a pretext for rejection or action.