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.
Stabilizing a Recaptured Conflict Zone Will Test Kyiv's Skills at ReconciliationWhile Ukraine’s weekend victory in seizing back two cities in Donetsk province is its biggest in the three-month war with Russian proxy forces, it immediately poses some tough new tests for the government in Kyiv.
And, at a critical moment in Ukraine’s fight against separatist militias backed by the Russian government, it is unclear what real support is being offered to Ukraine by governments in the transatlantic community.