The Worst Case Scenario Is Now Happening in Ukraine
The news: Russia's so-called "bloodless takeover" of Crimea had the veneer of looking democratic and peaceful, but in the rest of eastern Ukraine, things are descending into violence and chaos.
On Friday, the country witnessed its deadliest day of fighting since the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovych. At least 31 people died just in Odessa, a city that's remained largely calm until now. Nationalists and separatists clashed in fights in the streets, and a separatist building was set on fire, killing several inside.
For the first time in this civil conflict, the government in Kiev has launched an offensive against the armed insurgents, killing dozens. Fighting has broken out in areas such as Slovyansk, where militants shot down government helicopters and the military barricaded the streets.
Amidst this chaos, only one things is clear: This is no longer a civil protest, but the beginnings of all-out war.
The international response: The Ukrainian offensive comes just a day after President Vladimir Putin warned that government troops must withdraw from southern and eastern Ukraine. The Kremlin has accused Kiev of supporting nationalist terrorists and even accused the West of supplying troops.
In a statement, the Russian Foreign Ministry Sergey Lavrov called the Odessa fire "yet another manifestation of the criminal irresponsibility of the Kiev authorities who indulge insolent radical nationalists ... which are engaging in a campaign of physical terror."
In response, Ukraine and the West have made the same accusations against Russia, blaming it for sending agents provocateurs to foment dissent in eastern Ukraine. "Russia ... has released bands of thugs on Ukraine ... and is suddenly discovering this mixture might escape its control," said Gerard Araud, the French ambassador to the UN, at an emergency Security Council meeting convened by Russia.
Both Ukraine and Russia have been directing their troops toward the contentious border, lending further credence to the threat of war.
Image Credit: The Washington Post
But that's not all. The conflict is escalating beyond the military, as pro-Russian separatists have begun kidnapping journalists and internationals. The Ukrainian government also caught a Russian diplomat attempting to steal secrets and threw him out of the country.
These actions — military and political — are seriously undermining Ukraine's plan to hold its presidential elections later this month. The vote will be a test for Kiev's fledgling government, and should it be unable to carry out a peaceful, well organized election, it will provide more fodder for Russia's claim that Ukraine has lost control. And that's bad news for the future of an independent Ukraine.