Friday, April 25, 2014

#Ukraine Halts Military Push, Fearing Attack From Russia

At WSJ, "Ukraine Halts Military Push: Moscow's Saber-Rattling Leaves Kiev in Quandary; U.S. Unsure of Putin's Intent":

Ukrainian forces moved in on a pro-Russian stronghold Thursday, killing several militants in a firefight at a roadside checkpoint, but quickly halted their advance after Russia activated the thousands of troops it has massed just across the border.

Moscow's saber-rattling—launching new land and air military drills—left Ukraine's new government in a quandary: whether to risk pressing ahead with what it calls its antiterrorist operation in the restive east, or risk more bloodshed and provoking an invasion.

Acting President Oleksandr Turchynov, who had ordered the military operation to restart on Tuesday, vowed it would continue even as a security official in Kiev said the operation in the eastern city of Slovyansk had been paused for reworking. Ukraine's Foreign Ministry gave Moscow 48 hours to explain the military exercises along the border.

The Pentagon called those drills "exactly the opposite of what we have been calling on the Russians to do."

U.S. officials said they didn't know if the drills meant Russian President Vladimir Putin intends to intervene militarily in Ukraine. Some officials said they think it is a show of strength to reinforce his position before moving to reduce tensions and solidify his gains.

"We see movement, motion and activity," said a senior military official. "It looks like muscle flexing by Moscow. But is it more than that?"

President Barack Obama said Thursday in Tokyo that Russia hasn't been abiding by the spirit or letter of the international agreement reached a week ago in Geneva and intended to reduce tensions. Mr. Obama reiterated warnings that the U.S. is prepared to impose additional sanctions in days. Secretary of State John Kerry said Ukraine was holding up its end of the deal, but that Russia hasn't taken a "single concrete step."

Mr. Putin's tone Thursday was less strident than that of his foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, a day before...
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