Moscow is warning Ukraine any use of force against pro-Russian activists could plunge the country into civil war.
But Kiev doesn’t seem to be listening. On Monday, armed protesters declared independence in two Ukrainian cities. (Via Euronews)
The events bore a striking resemblance to the events that led up to Crimea's breakaway from Ukraine about a month ago. (Via Voice of America )
The government in Kiev responded Tuesday by sending in troops. In what it described as an “anti-terrorist” operation, police arrested 70 demonstrators and retook some of the government buildings seized by protesters. (Via Life News)
Ukraine and the White House have both accused Russia of stirring the separatist sentiments in those cities. They claim many of the protesters were actually mercenaries paid by Russia. (Via Channel 4)
JAY CARNEY: "There is strong evidence suggesting some of these demonstrators were paid and were not local residents." (Via The White House)
And by most reports, there are believed to be tens of thousands of Russian troops amassed along Ukraine's eastern border. Despite the troop buildup, Russia says it has no plans of invading. (Via ITN)
So, what’s Russia endgame here? A writer for Quartz suggests Putin’s plan isn’t to move farther into Ukraine, but rather to influence events on the ground ahead of Ukraine's presidential elections in May.
"Putin's apparent preference is for Ukraine to split into federated states with independent foreign policies prior to the presidential election—allowing the leaders of some of them to form subservient relationships with Russia." (Via Quartz)
Whether cities like Donetsk and Kharkiv go the same way as Crimea is another question entirely. As analysts have pointed out, there doesn't seem to be the same level of public support for independence as was seen in Crimea.