According to NATO, “well over” 1,000 Russian soldiers are fighting in Ukraine. Many have already died in fighting, like the paratroopers who were secretly buried in the Russian city of Pskov, 1,600 kilometers from the Ukrainian border. The Russian government has denied that the soldiers were killed in Ukraine. “There is no information about how or where they died,” Radio Free Europe reports. Surely, now that this seemingly incontrovertible evidence of a Russian invasion is out in the open, the Kremlin will have to fess up, and the U.S. and Europe will have to respond?
Not so. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s refusal to discuss the possibility of a ceasefire at Sunday’s failed diplomatic summit in Minsk with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko reveals the extent to which the Kremlin will not forfeit its deniability. Russia “cannot talk substantively about a ceasefire, about any agreements between Kiev, Donetsk and Lugansk—this is none of our business, it’s the business of Ukraine itself,” Putin said on Sunday. At Thursday’s UN Security Council emergency meeting, Russian UN envoy Vitaliy Churkin said, “The current escalation is a direct effect of Kiev’s criminal polices and war being waged against its own people”—it has nothing to do with Russia, the Kremlin line goes. The Russian Foreign Ministry is claiming that the only reason Kiev has sounded the alarm of a full-fledged Russian invasion this week is because the Ukrainian “anti-terrorist operation” is failing in the east, RIA Novosti reports, leaving aside the obvious reason why the Ukrainian military has suffered setbacks recently, which is that Russia opened up a new front in southeastern Ukraine this week. Izvestia reports that Ukraine is accusing Russia of invading only because the “President of Ukraine is looking for an external enemy” to fend off domestic disapproval.
Russian troops are now reportedly advancing toward the previously peaceful coastal city of Mariupol, where hundreds of people gathered today to rally for peace. In Donetsk, there has been a “sharp escalation” in fighting, prompting Poroshenko to cancel a trip to Turkey on Thursday and assure the nation that the situation in the east is “extremely difficult, but under control.” Ukraine is, understandably, looking to NATO and the E.U. for help, but doing so is precisely what is egging on further Russian intervention within its borders.