On Tuesday, Vladimir Putin made two assertions that reflect how he wants the world to see the turmoil in east Ukraine: “I state responsibly: there are neither Russian instructors, nor special units, nor troops, no one there.”
Moscow argues that the ongoing crisis across east Ukraine — separatists have violently seized official buildings in more than a dozen cities and are demanding referendums — was caused by a West-backed coup d’etat.
“I think what is happening now shows us who really was mastering the process from the beginning. But in the beginning, the United States preferred to remain in the shadow,” Putin stated, as quoted by RIA Novosti.
What’s actually occurring leads back to Russia through Crimea.
Igor Strelkov, a suspected Russian intelligence officer who has emerged as the face of the insurgency, recently told journalists that he and his men entered Ukraine from Crimea. Earlier this month, Putin admitted that the masked men in unmarked military uniforms who commandeered Crimea were Russian troops.
Furthermore, a medal being awarded by the Russian government to former Ukrainians says that the operation to “liberate” Crimea began on February 20 — which was two days before Ukraine President
Viktor Yanukovych fled Kiev and the bloodiest day of the Maidan uprising.
Strelkov also said that a third of the fighters, a mix of trained men in uniform with modern weapons and less-organised local militiamen, are not Ukrainian.
Ukraine considers Strelkov to be “the chief commander of pro-Russian forces in eastern Ukraine in charge of Russian Military Intelligence personnel, subversives, militants, and a network of Russian and Ukrainian agents working on behalf of Russia.”
And although there are fewer “little green men” (i.e., Russian forces without insignia) in east Ukraine, the indications of a professional operation is clear.
As Peter Leonard of AP reports, “the eerie skill with which the green men anticipate Ukraine’s every security move offers strong circumstantial evidence of Russian involvement.”
So as Putin states that he has sent “no one” to Ukraine and the West caused the crisis to begin with, Russian provocateurs are hiding in plain sight.
“What is happening in eastern Ukraine is a military operation that is well-planned and organised,” U.S. Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove, NATO’s supreme commander in Europe, wrote on the NATO website, “and we assess that it is being carried out at the direction of Russia.”
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