Russia is Teetering on The Brink of ‘All Out War’ with Ukraine
- Russia is Teetering on The Brink of ‘All Out War’ with Ukraine
by Andrew Hammond, http://www.independent.co.uk/
Whether tensions escalate or subside will depend most upon the political calculus of Russia. Previously, Moscow had hoped that sustained economic, military and political pressure could lead to significant loss of support within Ukraine for its pro-Western government.
Ukraine is holding a major military parade in Kiev today to mark its 25th anniversary as an independent state. But, at a time that should otherwise be a moment of national celebration, a serious crisis with Moscow is flaring up. So serious, in fact, that on Tuesday the Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande were forced to hold a three-way phone call to try to de-escalate the situation.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Petro Poroshenko has even warned that there is growing risk of a “full scale Russian invasion along all fronts,” ratcheting up what is already the bloodiest European conflict since the wars over the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s.
The uptick in tensions coincides with a visit last Friday by Putin to Crimea, which was annexed by Moscow in 2014. Russia’s assertion last week that Kiev attempted an armed incursion into Crimea, plus the death of three Ukrainian soldiers, has escalated the situation further.
In total, the 28-month crisis between the two countries has claimed an estimated 9,500 lives and more than a million people have fled their homes. The Ukrainian economy is in the doldrums, with foreign exchange reserves depleted and the government seeking to rejuvenate a $17.5bn (£13bn) Western-led economic bailout deal.
With the increasing possibility of what Hollande has called “total war”, alarm is growing in the international community – not least within France and Germany, the two countries which helped broker the February 2015 Minsk agreement. Under that deal, both sides agreed to measures including an immediate, full bilateral ceasefire and the withdrawal of heavy weapons from Donetsk and Luhansk, where fighting since 2014 has seen separatists seize significant portions of the regions, raising international fears about the viability of the Ukrainian state.
In the immediate-term, and despite recent rhetoric, it is unlikely there will be any decisive actions in advance of the G20 summit in China next month. And the Pentagon has poured cold water on the idea that Moscow might be preparing an imminent invasion, asserting that the build-up of Russian troops on the border is part of an annual military exercise.
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