Fighting Flares as EU Sanctions set to Run Out

As the shaky cease-fire holds up, there seems to be more and more shooting and finger pointing in several regions of Eastern Ukraine.  Kiev claims that separatists have made attempts to gain cities and territory, while Moscow claims the Ukrainians are shelling separatist positions and populated areas.  Now we have to questions if both sides are not disingenuous.

Reuters reports

Ukraine’s president told his military on Thursday to prepare for a possible “full-scale invasion” by Russia all along their joint border, a day after the worst fighting with Russian-backed separatists in months.

A long fire-fight the day before had proven deadly and yet unproductive for both sides of the conflict.  What has to be determined is who did what and why.  The ceasefire had not ever been without incident or a real ceasing of fire completely.  Skirmishes are regular occurrences, but, this was all out fighting.

Reuters continues

Referring to a 12-hour firefight involving artillery on both sides on Wednesday when Ukraine says the rebels tried to take the town of Maryinka, Poroshenko said: “There is a colossal threat of a renewal of large-scale military operations from the side of the Russian-terrorist groups.”

There are signs that Russia and their separatist allies are ready to renew fighting, but there is the question of EU sanctions.  This fighting is well timed to get these sanctions extended.  And Russia claims that the fighting was initiated by Kiev forces.

Reuters explains

The Kremlin on Thursday accused Kiev of provoking new fighting with the aim of putting pressure on the European Union, which is due to decide on whether to extend economic sanctions on Russia soon.

“The Ukrainian side has taken steps to aggravate tensions many times in the past in the run-up to some major international events. This used to happen and we are seriously concerned now over the most recent manifestation of such activity,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists.

There are also reports that the Russians are once again amassing troops on the Ukrainian border.  This would point to the possibility that the Ukrainian president is right, the Russians are planning something.

Poroshenko, delivering his state of the nation speech, said 9,000 Russian servicemen were deployed on Ukrainian territory.

“The concentration of Russian troops near the state border is one and a half times greater than a year ago,” he declared.

This seems to be confirmed by Reuters’ reporters

Reuters journalists have reported a Russian military buildup on the frontier in recent weeks, with thousands of troops and heavy weapons.

It is unlikely that Russia would risk the backlash created by an all out invasion of Ukraine.  On the other hand, NATO has repeatedly shown that they were unwilling to fight Russia in either a proxy or real war over Ukraine.  This might be Putin finally calling their bluff.