So much for talks. Yesterday, the attempt to get the Ukraine crisis settled between the two leaders at the forefront supposedly ended on “a positive note,” despite a failure to get an agreement. Vladimir Putin rejected any hint that Russia had to participate in a cease-fire, but said his role was to build trust:
On the agenda were a variety of issues causing tensions between Ukraine and Russia, including the Kremlin’s economic future (which is under pressure from sanctions) and war-torn Donbass. President Poroshenko offered his proposed peace plan, pushing a mainly humanitarian cause during the meeting. Leaders from Kazakhstan agreed that resolving the war and human suffering in Eastern Ukraine was imperative.
President Putin spoke with press following the two-hour meeting. He told Russia Today the talks were “positive,” but did not offer details about the future of Poroshenko’s proposed peace plan.
“We, Russia, cannot talk about any ceasefire conditions whatsoever, or possible agreements between Kiev, Donetsk and Lugansk,” said Putin, “We can only facilitate the creation of an environment of trust in the course of this possible and much needed, in my opinion, negotiation process. This is what we talked about.”
So much for trust, too. This morning, Poroshenko has canceled a state visit to Turkey as he accused Putin of launching another “invasion” in eastern Ukraine:
Ukrainian President Poroshenko claimed Russian forces had invaded Ukraine Thursday, raising fears the crisis in the region was escalating. “I made the decision to cancel a working visit to the Republic of Turkey … as an invasion of Russian forces has taken place,” he said in a statement on the presidential website on Thursday, according to Reuters. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) was holding an emergency meeting about the situation in Vienna.
A pro-Moscow separatist leader earlier said Russian soldiers were fighting alongside rebels inside Ukraine – hours after the United States accused Russia of orchestrating a new military campaign in the country. “Among us are fighting serving soldiers, who would rather take their vacation not on a beach but with us, among brothers, who are fighting for their freedom,” east Ukraine rebel leader Alexander Zakharchenko said in an interview posted on the Internet site of a Russian television station. Up to 4,000 Russian volunteers are also fighting alongside the rebels, Zakharchenko claimed. A Ukrainian military source told Reuters that Russian-backed separatists had seized the strategic high point of Savur-Mohyla.
Ukraine accuses Russia of having sent armored forces over the border in support of rebels on both fronts:
Pro-Moscow rebel forces in eastern Ukraine, backed by Russian tanks and armored personnel carriers, battled government forces on two fronts Thursday, a Ukrainian military official said.
The fighting was taking place southeast of Donetsk, and along the nation’s southern coast in the town of Novoazovsk, about 12 miles (20 km) from the Russian border, according to Mykhailo Lysenko, the deputy commander of the Ukrainian Donbas battalion.
“This is a full-scale invasion,” Lysenko said, referring to the fighting in the south.
Rebels are now taking aim at the key port of Mariupol, perhaps aided by the strength afforded them from Russia:
His announcement came as pro-Russian rebels captured the seaside town of Novoazovsk and threatened to take the strategic port city of Mariupol.
The rebel successes constitute the opening of a new front in the conflict.
Mr Poroshenko said he was calling a meeting of the Ukrainian security council.
He added that Ukraine would initiate an emergency session of the United Nations Security Council to discuss the crisis.
Good luck with that. Russia holds a veto on the UN Security Council, so no action will be forthcoming, and Poroshenko knows it. He’s hoping to embarrass Putin by forcing him to exercise the veto all by himself, a strategy that might work … if Putin was capable of embarrassment. The only other permanent UNSC nation that might rescue him would be China, and Putin’s aggression to Moscow’s west might have them wondering what his plans for Russia’s borders with former Soviet republics closer to China might be. But even if China abstained or even voted against Putin, there’s little chance that the Russian strongman will let up. He’s been slow-rolling this seizure of Russian-speaking parts of Ukraine ever since the political unrest this winter deposed his puppet in Kyiv.
Bloomberg says, “No one knows what Russia really wants,” and scoffs at the idea that this is a “stealth invasion.” There’s nothing much stealthy about it any longer.