Monday, July 13, 2015

Much has been made of the fragility of the Minsk Accords and the continued fighting in East Ukraine, in spite of the ceasefire. Although there is constant sporadic shooting by light and sometimes heavy weapons, the frontlines have remained mostly static since April, when the agreement was signed. However, Ukraine is convinced Russia is preparing for an invasion and recently announced the government in Kiev has placed more than 60,000 troops in the Donbass region, or Anti-terrorist Operation (ATO) zone as the government calls it, to confront the pro-Russian separatists and regular Russian military forces.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Monday announced that Russia has more than 50,000 Russian military soldiers on the border in addition to 30,000 separatists or mercenaries. Mr. Poroshenko said these numbers were corroborated by NATO and U.S. intelligence. National Security and Defense Council head Oleksandr Turchynov said there were more than 20 Russian tactical military groups inside Ukraine and another 56 positioned across the border. Mr. Turchynov said the amount of Russian forces inside Ukraine is increasing, not decreasing. Recent drone video footage appeared to show a Russian armor base deep inside Ukrainian territory.

The Ukrainian government came under additional pressure over the weekend as an uprising by volunteer, nationalist, Right Sector militia flared up in the city of Mukacheve, near the Hungarian border in Western Ukraine. Two militia members were reported killed by government troops. Russia regularly calls these militias “Nazis” and has made the most of the uprising in Russian state run media. On Monday morning, reports that the Right Sector gunman were holding a 6-year-old boy hostage surfaced. Some estimates put the number of nationalist militia fighting pro-Russian forces in East Ukraine at 10,000-plus. This puts the government in the difficult position of fighting Ukrainian militia in the West that it needs to help fight Russia in the East.

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