Crisis in Ukraine
Russian troops and heavy artillery are operating on three fronts inside Eastern Ukraine, trying with some success to stall or reverse the gains made by Ukrainian troops in their battle against pro-Moscow separatists, Ukrainian and Western officials say. And they have a mounting pile of evidence to prove it, despite Russia's blanket denials.
The evidence includes photos of Russian military units bringing artillery into Ukraine, the use of sophisticated anti-aircraft weapons that Ukraine doesn't have and the rebels wouldn't know how to use, and Russian paratroopers captured inside Ukraine by Ukrainian troops. The Russian activity has been centered on the embattled rebel cities of Luhansk and Donetsk.
On Wednesday, The New York Times reports, Russian troops opened a third front, moving across the border to attack Ukrainian troops in and near the small border town of Novoazovsk, on the main road to Mariupol. The Russian forces routed the surprised and outgunned Ukrainians, The Times says.
Western officials suspect that Russia is either trying to position the separatists to take Mariupol, an important sea port, or draw Ukrainian forces into another battle to weaken their push to capture Donetsk and the rest of Luhansk.
Time's Simon Shuster suggests that Russian President Vladimir Putin is going to have to acknowledge invading Eastern Ukraine. (Russia already seized Crimea from Ukraine in the spring.) If the mounting evidence from Ukraine, NATO, the U.S., and Poland doesn't force Putin's hand, his own citizens might. The mothers of captured Russian soldiers are starting to publicly complain, and Russian online media is buzzing with rumors about casualties from Ukraine, Shuster says. The Russian body bags, he adds, "are likely to force Putin either to come clean and admit his country's intervention in Ukraine, or to face the growing public resentment over his denials."