Ukraine army surrounds Donetsk. Will Russia move in?

With all the focus on ISIS and Hamas, it’s easy to forget that there’s still a war going on in Eastern Ukraine these days. But unlike the other two conflicts, this one may actually be showing some signs of improvement. Ed noted that this move was in the offing earlier this week, and now the AP is reporting today that the Ukrainian military is not only holding their own, but is actually taking back some lost real estate. If these reports are confirmed, they’ve taken control of Krasnyi Luch, located on the road between the two largest Russian separatist strongholds, and now have the city of Donetsk essentially surrounded.

DONETSK, Ukraine (AP) — A top commander of the pro-Russia insurgency in eastern Ukraine said Saturday that Ukrainian forces have seized a key town, leaving the rebel region’s largest city of Donetsk surrounded.

The statement by Igor Girkin, a former Russian special service officer better known by his nom de guerre of Strelkov, appears to be a significant admission by the rebels that Ukrainian forces are gaining the upper hand in the four-month-old fight…

“The Donetsk-Horlivka group of the fighters of Novorossiya is completely surrounded,” he said on a rebel social media page. Novosrossiya, or New Russia, is a term widely used for the rebel region.

In a weird sort of echo of the situation that Israel faces, the media is already highlighting an instance where Ukraine forces hit a hospital in Donetsk instead of the rebel target they were aiming at. But I somehow doubt there will be a lot of international sympathy for the Russians or condemnation of Ukraine’s forces for a few errant shells.

With the attention of the world being increasingly distracted, the question seems to be what, if anything the Russians will do about this. We asked last week about whether or not Putin was getting ready to move in force against Ukraine. This latest report confirms that he still has at least 20,000 troops on the border withing shouting distance of Donetsk, and having the pretense of civilian deaths of Russian speaking citizens might be the excuse he needs.

To the east of Donetsk, Russia has again amassed forces along the border with Ukraine, and the United States and NATO said that if an invasion were launched there under the justification of peacekeeping, it would risk turning an internecine conflict in Ukraine into a new war among nation states in Europe.

Speaking in Kiev on Thursday, NATO’s secretary general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, called on Russia to withdraw its troops from the border and “step back from the brink.”

The cold war is looking pretty hot at this point. Ukraine is doing a lot better than initially expected in terms of beefing up their military, but they are clearly still in no shape for a head on shooting war with the full Russian military. And if Russia actually does move in, will anyone try to kick them out? Doubtful, in my opinion. The only thing that would stop Russia at this point is the fear of getting stuck in another long term battle against the natives, such as the one they lost in Afghanistan.