Putin’s latest Crimean gambit

Adrian Karatnycky writes: Curiously, it took Russia four full days after an alleged attack by Ukrainian special forces in Crimea to make a public statement about the event.

On August 10, Russian President Vladimir Putin took to the airwaves to denounce “tactics of terrorism.” He stated the alleged killings of a soldier and an FSB security agency operative “will not pass idly by,” intimating a Russian military response, and he called on the United States and the European Union to rein in Kiev.

Russian news sources report that a unit of 20 Ukrainian soldiers engaged in the attack on August 6 after their plot to sabotage a Crimean highway was foiled; seven “saboteurs” are reported to have been apprehended. But the delay in reporting the event raises the question of why authorities did not make an effort to inform Crimeans of the potential danger or urge them to be on the lookout for a large number of armed men on the run.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has called the accusations a “fantasy that serves as a pretext for the latest round of military threats against Ukraine.” Logic suggests that he is being truthful.

To begin with, it would be foolish for Ukraine to launch a violent attack, given the vast superiority of Russian military power. It would be even more foolish to provoke Russia at a time when its forces are mobilizing for massive military maneuvers along Ukraine’s eastern border and in Crimea.

Indeed, Ukraine is already on edge over signs of increased Russian military deployments near its eastern border and increased attacks on Ukrainian positions by fighters from the breakaway enclaves of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions. Last week, Ukraine placed its armed forces on a state of heightened readiness. On Thursday, President Poroshenko ordered these forces to be on “combat alert.” [Continue reading…]

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