Ukraine Liveblog Day 124: Russia On ‘Full Combat Alert’

June 21, 2014
Unmarked Russian-made tanks and military hardware roll through eastern Ukraine on Friday June 20, 2014

Yesterday’s liveblog can be found here. For an overview and analysis of this developing story see our latest podcast.

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EU Prepping More Sanctions?

Strong words from the Swedish ambassador to the OSCE:

Reuters reports that several states, including Baltic nations, are preparing to pass new sanctions at the meeting of the EU next week:

Earlier on Friday, the leaders of the United States, France and Germany agreed Russia risks new sanctions if it fails to take immediate steps to defuse tensions on the Ukraine border.

Leaders of EU’s member states may discuss the issue at a summit in Brussels next week.

Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia – which all broke away from the Soviet Union in 1990-1991 – had already called for tougher EU sanctions against Moscow after its annexation of Crimea.

Putin Says He Supports A Ceasefire… Sort Of

Putin has applauded, and simultaneously criticized, Ukraine’s ceasefire offer. RFE/RL reports:

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he supports the Ukrainian leader’s decision to declare a cease-fire in southeastern Ukraine but said the plan would not be “viable” without “practical actions.” 

In a statement on June 21 on the Kremlin website, Putin said Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s peace plan should not be an “ultimatum.”

Putin called on all sides to cease fighting and begin negotiations.

In other words Poroshenko should stop fighting, but he cannot demand that the separatists do the same?

In this Putin reveals what he really want — the conflict to be frozen as it stands and Poroshenko to negotiate a settlement with the separatists that effectively gives them control over the eastern third of the country — despite the fact that the majority of Ukrainians, even in the east, do not support such a move

Poroshenko’s Ceasefire Threatened By New Fighting

Yesterday started with the news that Russian tanks, military hardware, and troops reportedly crossed the border into eastern Ukraine. Large convoys and trains packed with troops and military vehicles were filmed flocking toward the border, Ukraine’s president announced a ceasefire.

That ceasefire was essentially dismissed by both Russia and the Russian backed separatists. Today Putin has ordered the part of the Russian military into ‘full combat alert’ and Russia is making more threats to directly militarily intervene in Ukraine. Buisness Insider reports:

Putin’s order came about 13 hours after Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko ordered a ceasefire Friday between his troops and pro-Russian rebels in the east of the country. Poroshenko’s ceasefire announcement was part of his plan to decrease tensions between his government and the rebels following months of tensions in Ukraine after protests that saw the country’s pro-Moscow President Viktor Yanukovych ousted earlier this year and led to elections where Poroshenko was installed earlier this month. 

Poroshenko’s ceasefire deal was immediately threatened by what the Ukrainian government described as multiple rebel attacks Friday night and Saturday morning. Rebel leaders said Ukrainian troops were the ones ignoring the ceasefire. According to The Associated Press, prominent rebel leader Pavel Gubarev told the Rossiya-24 TV channel Ukrainian soldiers were either disobeying Poroshenko or the president was “lying” about the deal.

“There is no ceasefire at all,” Gubarev said. 

Poroshenko has a serious problem. If the separatists do not abide by the ceasefire, he will have to either cede the east or continue to escalate his military ‘anti-terrorism operation’ to retake territory under separatist control. If he choices the latter option, Russia may intervene militarily to halt Ukraine’s advances.