As Ukrainian Army Weakens Kremlin’s Proxy Forces, Putin Steps Up War to Avoid Defeat
The war in Ukraine has heated up significantly in the ten days since the Russian-led and supplied insurgents shot down Malaysian Airlines Flight 17. Ukrainian forces retook the city of Lysychansk from the rebels late last week and have established control over most of their border with Russia. They are advancing on the city of Horlivka, a stronghold of the rebels and a gateway to Donetsk, the principal city of the Donbas region.
The Ukrainians’ steady advance, and the prospect that they might seal the border and cut insurgent supply lines, have led the government of President Vladimir Putin to again escalate its intervention in Ukraine. In addition to keeping up a steady flow of armored vehicles, missile systems and fighters to its agents in southeastern Ukraine, the Kremlin has sent heavy artillery. Russian forces along the Ukrainian border are directly attacking the Ukrainian military with artillery fire. In some locations, Ukrainian forces are under fire by the separatists to their west and the Russians to their east.
Alternate Reality Presented to the Russian Public by its Media
Four days after the destruction of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17, Russia’s state-dominated news media are bending fact and credulity in an effort to blame Ukraine for the disaster. Within hours of the crash, Russia’s second largest news agency, RIA Novosti, announced that the Boeing 777 was shot down by the Ukrainian military. Citing the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic press service as their source, RIA reported that “eyewitnesses reported that the Malaysian jet was attacked by a Ukrainian fighter plane, after which the plane broke in midair into two sections and crashed on the territory of the Donetsk People’s Republic. After the attack the Ukrainian fighter jet was shot down and crashed. ”
Calls for Probe of Flight MH17 Will Disturb Back-Room Policymaking
The shooting down of the Malaysian airliner by the Russian-led insurgents in southeastern Ukraine appears to have awakened Europe’s conscience. The principal powers in the EU had been able thus far in the Ukraine crisis to avoid directly accusing the Kremlin of responsibility for the disorder in Ukraine’s southeast. They had sanctioned Moscow three times for failing to rein in “the pro-Russian separatists,” but those measures were notably weaker than the sanctions issued from Washington. This encouraged Mr. Putin to believe that, due to its economic interests in Russia, the EU would not act decisively against Kremlin aggression in Ukraine.
The Kremlin's thin veil concealing its waging of war against Ukraine effectively disappeared weeks ago for anyone carefully watching the evidence. But now it has vanished even for the casual observer. Moscow's escalation of the war since the start of July has created too much clear evidence to permit President Vladimir Putin any further benefit of the doubt.
Vladimir Antyufeyev Fought Dirty Wars in Latvia, Moldova, Georgia; He’s Just the Man the Kremlin Needs
Last week the Russian-backed “Donetsk People’s Republic” became even more Russian-led. The two Muscovites at the top of the separatist leadership introduced the latest Russian citizen to join their team – and the one with the most prominent role so far in the Kremlin’s quarter-century of struggles to cripple the independence of its neighboring European states.
Putin Used West's Hesitation to Escalate Kremlin's War on Ukraine
The news that the United States has sanctioned several major Russian banks and firms, greatly limiting their use of American financial markets, is the first good news in months in terms of Western support for Ukraine. The designation of Vnesheconombank (Bank for Development and Foreign Economic Affairs), Rosneft (Russia's largest oil producer) and Gazprombank in particular will have a major impact on the Russian economy. EU sanctions are notably weaker, but still exert a price on the Kremlin for its escalating aggression in Ukraine. The decision to stop any funding for Russian projects by the European Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development will have an impact.
A Diaspora Russian Declares That 500 Pro-Kremlin Fighters Could Break Up Latvia
Latvia’s government and the world’s mainstream media may have been right to publicly ignore a Latvia-born Russian named Andrey Neronsky this week when he declared that “about 500 [Donbas-style] militiamen would be enough to end the existence of Latvia as a unified state.” Neronsky is a hardline and marginalized son of the ethnic Russian community in Latvia’s capital who has re-settled in Moscow to lobby there for greater support for the Russian diaspora in the Baltic states.
While there’s no evidence that Neronsky represents any significant constituency in either Riga or Moscow, his outburst, on a Russian website, did seize the attention of Latvian political analysts and officials, if only because Eastern Europe is a more dangerously unpredictable place since Russia’s seizure of Crimea and its proxy invasion of southeastern Ukraine. And it underscores that, even if Baltic governments handle well the local grievances of their Russian minorities, a deluded minority exists in the diaspora that the Kremlin can use as cover to press its neighboring states – psychologically or with real violence.
Kyiv Government and Local Residents Report New Tanks From Russia Entering the FightA week after the European Union backed away from its vow to impose broad economic sanctions on Russia over the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine, the government of President Vladimir Putin has intensified the assault. Ukraine’s government and independent reports say Russia has sent as many as 100 military or armored vehicles into Ukraine. Russia has deployed its army officers directly in the fighting, Ukraine says, and a high-altitude rocket attack today on a Ukrainian military transport reflects the introduction of either more potent missiles or direct Russian force into the war.
The Kremlin’s amplified role, effectively permitted by the West’s retreat on sanctions, underscores the urgency for the West of imposing broader measures, notably as part of the meeting Wednesday (July 16) of EU leaders, Atlantic Council analysts say.
Damon Wilson: White House May Have to Decide to Act Without European Union
The United States has only a dwindling few days left to persuade the European Union to join it in imposing broad economic sanctions against Russia for its attacks on Ukraine. After the EU Council meets on Wednesday, July 16, the Obama administration may well have to decide how far it would like to go in taking such steps without a united Western world behind it.
“It’s clear that the US government is making an all-out push” to persuade EU member states to escalate sanctions on Russia, Atlantic Council Executive Vice President Damon Wilson said today. Western governments so far have banned business transactions or travel in the West by individuals associated with President Vladimir Putin or his government’s attacks on Ukraine, and for some companies or banks associated with them.