Vladimir Putin has repeatedly referred to southeast Ukraine as “Novorussia,” or “New Russia,” and has asserted the right to intervene on the behalf of ethnic Russians living there.
Novorussia is a historical term referring to territory conquered by the Russian Empire in the 1700s and made part of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, part of the Soviet Union, in 1922.
Russia already annexed one of those regions, Crimea, and now masked pro-Russian gunman — some of whom are heavily armed and wearing military uniforms without insignia — are in control of the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk. Separatists in both regions are calling for referendums over sovereignty on May 11th.
Kiev is “helpless” to restore order in the east, and acting President Oleksandr Turchynov said that the top priority is to protect the Kharkiv and Odessa regions from the spreading insurgency.
That will be a tall task. Masked gunman shot the mayor of Kharkiv, who supported ousted pro-Moscow President Viktor Yanukovych before supporting a united Ukraine, in the back while he was jogging.
To Odessa’s west, about 1,200 Russian soldiers are based in the pro-Russian region of Transnistria,
Basically, recent events have played to Putin’s desire to keep “Novorussia” regions in the Kremlin’s orbit after a popular revolution toppled Yanukovych and a West-leaning government was formed.
To that end, it appears that those conspicuous “green men” are making Putin’s New Russia a reality.
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