Five Major Developments in Ukraine Over the Weekend, Other than the Referendum
by Bryan Preston
1. Ukraine says Russian forces moved outside Crimea Saturday, seizing control of a small village that just happens to have a natural gas distribution center. Ukraine’s government called the move a “provocation.”
Smearing the Maidan Protesters
2. Russia and some in the West accuse the Ukraine protesters of being neo-Nazis and the like. But Ukraine’s Jews refuted that, saying that there “isn’t a hint” of anti-Semitism, Nazism or fascism among Ukraine’s Maidan protesters.
3. Ukraine owes Russia about $1.5 billion, in the form of payments to Gazprom, which is majority owned by the Russian government. But Gazprom puts that debt at $1.8 billion. Russia has already threatened to cut nearly half of the natural gas it pipes to Ukraine, which would drive Ukraine’s government farther into debt.
Call Up the Reserves
4. Ukraine’s parliament has approved mobilizing about 40,000 reserve troops.
A Brief Truce
5. Ukraine’s and Russia’s defense ministries agreed on a truce in Crimea, up to March 21. Both sides can be expected to reinforce their positions for the next few days on the peninsula.
Will Russia invade the rest of Ukraine? That still seems likely. Having taken Crimea and sawed it off the rest of Ukraine with the referendum on Sunday, Russia is consolidating its gains, mobilizing its forces along Ukraine’s border, and through Gazprom building an economic case for invasion of eastern Ukraine, where the bulk of the country’s energy production lies. The smear of the Maidan protesters and the instigation of riots and violence in eastern Ukraine would be mere pretexts to sweep into Ukraine and either turn it into a puppet state or, with assistance from Belarus, dismember it.