Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Ukraine: Now What?

According to David M. Herszenhorn, writing in the NYT, Ukrainian separatists have retreated to a couple of big cities, and the government is making gains. For the moment, Putin has pulled back and does not seem to be helping the separatists.

KIEV, Ukraine — Separatist rebels retreated Monday from positions in eastern Ukraine, apparently blowing up bridges, and began building barricades in the two largest cities, Donetsk and Luhansk, in anticipation of a final stand against advancing government troops.

While separatist leaders have complained bitterly about being sold out by their allies in Moscow, Ukrainian officials said Monday that they had succeeded in sealing the previously porous border with Russia, stopping the influx of new weapons and fighters.

The action on Monday came after a series of surprising successes by Ukraine’s underequipped and underfunded military, which in recent days has driven the rebels from some strongholds that were seized early in the three-month rebellion. It has accomplished this without encountering strong resistance or a reaction from Moscow.

Whatever the outcome, it looks like Eastern Ukraine will pay a big price for its adventure with civil war. Whatever the sympathies of the populace, the core of the revolt seems to have been disaffected youths and police and others lusting after bigger Russian pensions.

In an apparent bid to slow the oncoming troops, the pro-Russian insurgents blew up two bridges on the road to Donetsk from Slovyansk and Kramatorsk, two long-occupied provincial cities where rebels were ousted over the weekend after a fierce bombardment.

At the same time, Ukrainian officials said their troops were setting up blockades to isolate separatists in the cities. “The points of access to these cities are being blocked so that militants are not delivered weapons or manpower or other resources,” Andriy Lysenko, a spokesman for Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, said at a briefing in Kiev.