As Russian forces escalate, Ukraine’s influence waning

The Washington Post reports: The pro-Ukraine activists struck before dawn Thursday while the separatists were fast asleep, retaking city hall after nearly two weeks of occupation and notching a small but critical victory in the struggle to keep this country’s eastern half from slipping into Russian hands.

But victory was fleeting: By Friday, the pro-Russia Donetsk People’s Republic had been reinstated in this heavily industrial port city of half a million. Inside city hall, the separatists were busy — restocking supplies of molotov cocktails, brokering deals with the local police and vowing not to yield until they win their freedom from the government in Kiev.

The episode reflects the massive challenge that Ukrainian authorities face as they try to reassert their authority in a region where government buildings remain in separatist hands a week after Russia and the West agreed on a plan to end the occupations.

Rather than accede to demands to leave, the pro-Russia demonstrators have flouted them with increasingly aggressive behavior that tests not only Kiev but also its Western backers.

That behavior reached a new pitch Friday, with separatists detaining a group of European security monitors and branding them “spies.” The development was likely to raise the stakes in Russia’s standoff with the West, which has already left Ukraine dismembered by the loss last month of Crimea. [Continue reading…]

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