If you’ve been following the crisis in Ukraine throughout the year, you know just as well as I that certain fateful events occasionally occur in the conflict that return it to the headlines, such as the ousting of Viktor Yanukovych or the tragedy of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17. The crisis has re-entered the headlines and constant coverage of Western media once again due to Russia’s partial invasion of Ukraine. Russia has supported the separatists since the beginning of the conflict, both tactically and militarily by supplying them with arms, but now they have decided to directly intervene in the fighting. Over a month ago, the Ukrainian military was making substantial victories against the separatists until the Russian military directly intervened in the conflict, by firing on Ukrainian artillery and fighting alongside the rebels. Satellite images of Russian tanks rolling down the eastern Ukraine countryside are circulating online, as well as close-up videos of Russian tanks. Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s minister of Foreign Affairs, said that the satellite images of Russian tanks “were from computer games”. NATO officials have stated that over 1,000 Russian troops have entered Ukraine. Despite all this evidence, Moscow continues to deny that they are involved in the conflict in anyway. When the Ukrainian government called for a cease fire with Russia, Putin said that it was implausible because “Russia is not a party in the conflict”, which is obviously a lie.
One of the most peculiar parts of Russia’s intervention is their use of humanitarian aid trucks to disguise the invasion as charitable one that only seeks to assist the Ukrainians, but this too, is a lie. The invasion began August 22nd, when a convoy of Russian Humanitarian aid trucks crossed the border into eastern Ukraine without permission of the Ukrainian government, and entered the rebel-held territory of Luhansk to provide medical assistance to the Pro-Russian citizens of the region. Shortly following this, the Russian military entered south-eastern Ukraine to provide military and strategic assistance to the separatists. Thanks to the help of the Russians, Ukrainian nationalists have suffered heavy loses in the cities of Novoazovsk and Mariupol, forcing them to retreat. The fact that this resurgence by the Pro-Russian separatists is occurring shortly after news of the Russian invasion is no coincidence. Although Moscow continues to deny their invasion, Pro-Russian separatists have publicly admitted that Russian troops are fighting with them. Aleksandr Zakharchenko, Prime minister of the Donetsk People’s Republic, stated that somewhere between 3,000 to 4,000 Russian troops are fighting alongside the separatists. However, the separatists say these troops aren’t there because they’ve been commanded to, they’re supposedly fighting there on their own volition. They are on vacation and they’d rather spend their vacation fighting in Ukraine than on the beach. Even though they deny a calculated invasion, the Russian government and state-controlled media have acknowledged that Russian troops have entered Ukraine, but they too call these soldiers “volunteers” who have chosen to fight for the Pro-Russian self-proclaimed republics on their own behalf. These are obviously complete fabrications. Even if some Russian troops decided that they would volunteer to help the rebels (which I’m not denying), how were they able to initiate such an organized invasion that occurred on the exact same day that the convoy of aid trucks (which the Kremlin doesn’t deny) entered Ukraine? I find it hard to believe that it was just a coincidence. Also, how were these “volunteers” allowed to import Russian military equipment into Ukraine without formal permission of Russian military authority? It’s incredibly impractical and further reveals how fraudulent the Russian government is.
Even though the Kremlin denounces all claims that Russia is a belligerent in the War in Donbass, Putin, as always, never misses the opportunity to flex his muscles and display his Russian pride. During a private phone conversation, Putin told a European official, José Manuel Barroso, that he could “take Kiev in two weeks” if he really wanted to. Many are interpreting this statement as a direct threat to the Ukrainian government, but the Kremlin, specifically Yuri Ushakov, a Kremlin aide, asserted that this was a complete misinterpretation of Putin’s narcissistic comment. Apparently, Putin said it as a response to an accusation of Russia invading Ukraine made by Barroso, at which Putin replied that the idea of an invasion is ridiculous because the Russian military is so strong, if Putin really wanted the rest of Ukraine, he could take it all, including its far-eastern capital, in two weeks. The Russian government and media are similarly projecting Putin’s remark as: “our military is so strong that we could take all of Ukraine very quickly and easily, we haven’t done this yet so therefore any accusations of us invading them are invalid” rather than a threat on Ukraine saying “We’re so powerful that we’ll take Kiev in two weeks!”. Its difficult to say which meaning the comment has, even if Russia says it is the former. After all, Russia doesn’t have a reputation for being truthful. Either way, the statement is a brash one that will certainly increase tensions between Russia and Ukraine, which Putin obviously isn’t trying too hard to prevent.
Throughout the week, as more evidence of a Russian invasion in eastern Ukraine was acquired by NATO and the media, more western officials have publicly condemned Russia, especially Putin, for the invasion. Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany and a close ally to Mr. Putin, denounced Russia for their aggressive actions when she sided with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on the issue out of sympathy for the Ukrainians. On the 3rd of September, President Obama visited Tallinn, Estonia to meet with the Presidents of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania on the issue of Russia’s military ambitions in Ukraine and how it could impact the three Baltic states (who were all added to NATO in 2004). Later, during a NATO Summit in Wales which Obama also attended, Russia’s violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity along with the rampage of the terrorist group ISIS, was a serious subject. British Prime Minister David Cameron accused Russia of “ripping up the rulebook with its annexation of Crimea and its troops on sovereign soil in Ukraine” and claimed that the solidarity of NATO is more necessary than ever in order to combat the threat that Russia and ISIS pose to their countries. It seems that Europe and the West are united in their condemnation of Putin’s imperialism, but merely speaking out against him isn’t enough to prevent the spread of Russian military units and Pro-Russian separatists throughout Ukraine. They’ve yet to punish Putin and his men for their actions. But of course, if they did, it wouldn’t be the first time the West has punished the eastern European power for its actions. The United States has consistently sanctioned Russia for its military presence in Ukraine for months. The European Union also began sanctioning it in the middle of the summer. These attempts by Western powers have done little to pressure Putin into diminishing Russia’s interference in the conflict. Russia has actually increased its military presence since the economic sanctions were instituted, with events such as the invasion and providing separatists with medical assistance. It seems that Putin simply ignores any punishments he receives for his bad behavior. Instead, he listens to what his people tell him, to seize as much land as he wants and to restore Russia to its former glory as a world superpower.
The pressure upon President Putin by his people to increase Russian territory and fight the Ukrainian nationalists who have been projected as Neo-Nazis by Russian media is a significant factor which influences Putin’s unwillingness to compromise with the EU and U.S. If sanctioning the Russian economy multiple times hasn’t succeeded in causing Putin to back down, it’s difficult to know what will without starting a massive war. If one thing is sure, it’s that Russia certainly has invaded Ukraine and has no intention to end the incursion anytime soon. It’ll be interesting to see in the weeks and months to come what will happen in the Ukraine crisis, if Russia launches an all-out invasion on Ukraine or it permits peace to exist in the region once again. No one except for Putin knows for sure.