Thursday, April 24, saw a steep escalation of tensions between Moscow and Kiev after the Ukrainian army killed up to five pro-Russian militiamen in an attack on three checkpoints outside the eastern town of Slavyansk. President Vladimir Putin threatened “consequences.” He added that the legitimacy of the May 25 elections was in serious question. Defense Minister Gen. Sergey Shoigu ordered the Russian army to start drills at Rostov on Don near the Ukraine border.
debkafile’s military sources report that this order amounted to a state of alert, which required the troops to close their distance to the Ukraine border and take up prepared positions as bridgeheads for entering East Ukraine when the order is given.
Ukraine’s acting president demanded that Moscow pull its troops back from the border and stop “blackmail.”
In the past 48 hours, Russian officials have kept up an unprecedented stream of invective against the provisional government in Kiev and the Obama administration’s military, intelligence and financial intervention in Ukraine.
The opening shot was fired by Russia’s UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin, who Wednesday, April 23, blamed the US for the “pushing through the most radical scenario” in Kiev to save its $5 billion investment in regime change.
He was commenting on the statement by US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland who told CNN Monday that the US had invested around $5 billion in supporting democracy in Ukraine since the fall of the Soviet Union.
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov came next. He charged Washington with “running the show very much, very much.” As proof, Lavrov pointed to the timing of the Ukrainian government's re-launch of its security operation just after a two-day visit by US Vice President Joe Biden. The Ukraine army “had been ordered to shoot at people engaged in peaceful protests,” he said. Yet Kiev had failed to disarm its own extremists.
This was rounded off Thursday by Putin, who accused the Kiev “junta” of using the “military machine” to perpetrate a “very, very serious war crime against its own people” and promised “consequences.”
All this rhetoric added up to a bitter assault by Moscow on Washington for its support of what it regards as an illegitimate regime in Kiev and blame for what is seen as its illegal military actions against the pro-Russian militias of eastern Ukraine.
The Ukraine crisis has pursued US President Barack Obama in his four-nation Asian tour. In answer to reporters’ questions in Tokyo, he accused Moscow Thursday of failing to halt actions by pro-Russian militants in Ukraine and not acting “either in the spirit or the letter of the agreement in Geneva."
He said the US had further sanctions against Russia "teed up."