On Tuesday, acting president of Ukraine Oleksandr Turchynov surprised many by following-up on his ultimatum laid down against Russian sympathizers in Eastern Ukraine on Sunday. The deadline for Russian supporters to lay down their arms and submit peacefully expired at 0600 GMT Monday. When Ukrainian forces did not immediately respond with force, many in the international community believed Turchynov to be full of empty promises. Turchynov proved those naysayers wrong today.
"The Security Council has made a decision to begin a large-scale anti-terrorist operation with participation of army forces. We're not going to allow Russia to repeat the Crimean scenario in Ukraine's east," stated Turchynov.
The decision came as a result of pro-Russian forces gaining more and more traction in eastern Ukraine, most specifically in the Donetsk region. On Saturday, gunmen were able to take control of multiple government buildings in Slovyansk, Ukraine, a city 100 miles east of the Russian border. In all, nine cities have been taken control of by pro-Russian forces in the Donetsk region.
— KyivPost (@KyivPost) April 15, 2014
"An anti-terrorist operation began in the north of Donetsk Oblast. It will be conducted step-by-step, responsibly, deliberately. The goal of these actions, I want to underline, is to defend the citizens of Ukraine," Turchynov proclaimed to the Ukrainian parliament.
Turchynov would go on to add, "The plans of the Russian Federation were and remain brutal. They want not only for Donbass (Donetsk region), but for the whole south and east of Ukraine to be engulfed by fire." Turchynov stated that the goal of the anti-terror campaign is to "defend the citizens of Ukraine, to stop terror, stop crime and stop attempts to tear our country into pieces."
As it currently stands, soldiers have been transported to the Donetsk region by helicopter to attempt to recapture and hold the towns threatened by pro-Russian Ukrainians and Russian soldiers stationed along the border.
— Yahoo (@Yahoo) April 15, 2014
Russia, as its position was with the incidents in Crimea, denies any coercion or assistance to the insurgents in eastern Ukraine. In fact, Russian leaders went as far as to say that if Ukraine decided to use military force against those Russian sympathizers in the Donetsk region, Russia would most likely back out of talks in Geneva to discuss the Ukrainian crisis. "You can't send in tanks and at the same time hold talks. The use of force would sabotage the opportunity offered by the four-party negotiations in Geneva," stated Sergey Lavrov, Russia's foreign minister.
Russian officials insisted that these uprisings "are the result of the Kiev authorities’ unwillingness and inability to take into account the interests of the Russian and Russian-speaking population."
President Obama and NATO secretary-general Anders Fogh Rasmussen believe otherwise, however.
Anders Fogh Rasmussen reported that "We never comment on intelligence, but I think from what is visible, it is very clear that Russia's hand is deeply engaged in this."
The White House and President Obama believe along the same lines, as evidenced by Obama's call to Putin to address the situation before it gets out of hand:
"The president emphasised that all irregular forces in the country need to lay down their arms, and he urged president Putin to use his influence with these armed, pro-Russian groups to convince them to depart the buildings they have seized... The president noted Russia's growing political and economic isolation as a result of its actions in Ukraine and made clear that the costs Russia already has incurred will increase if those actions persist... [He] said that while he continues to believe that a diplomatic solution is still possible, it cannot succeed in an environment of Russian military intimidation on Ukraine's borders, armed provocation within Ukraine, and escalatory rhetoric by Kremlin officials."
One can only hope that some solution will come as a result of the four-party talks between the US, EU, Russia and Ukraine in Geneva, Switzerland this Thursday.