The latest in Russia Ukraine news focuses on the annexation of Donetsk, Russian military exercises in the Black Sea, and attacks on Kharkiv. We’ll also look at the latest in Ukraine politics, including the role of mercenaries. These events have all prompted some very important questions in the world of Ukrainian politics. Nevertheless, there is no shortage of news on the region.
Russian mercenaries accused of acting as mercenaries
In recent years, Russia has been accused of sending mercenaries to the eastern Ukraine, where a group known as the Wagner Group has been operating. Known as the “little green men,” they were reportedly involved in the occupation of the Crimean Peninsula in 2014. The group also supports pro-Russian militias in the nearby Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Despite the group’s close ties with the Kremlin, Russia has repeatedly denied any involvement with the group.
The Russian mercenaries have also been implicated in rapes in Syria, which mirror those perpetrated by Islamic State fighters. In one case, a Russian mercenary is accused of abducting and torturing Hamdi Bouta. In one video, Bouta’s captors beat him, cut off his head with a shovel, and pose for pictures with it.
Russian military exercises in the Black Sea
The Black Sea region has long been a source of tensions between the United States and Russia. In 2016, the U.S. and Ukraine joined forces to conduct Exercise Sea Breeze, which drew angry Russian responses. Since Russia’s annexation of Crimea, tensions in the region have been particularly high. Ukraine accuses Russia of supporting separatists in eastern Ukraine, while Moscow rejects direct ties with the Ukrainian government and has called on Kiev to engage in talks on special status for the self-proclaimed People’s Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk.
Russia’s ability to project power from shore is one of its key advantages in the region. The recent seizure of Crimea has given it the opportunity to deploy long-range land-based systems like S-400 SAM and Bastion-P coastal defense cruise missile systems. These systems are capable of reaching ranges of more than 250 kilometers and can confuse U.S. drone flights, resulting in a miscalculation of Russian naval power.
Russian annexation of Donetsk
The Kremlin has set partial conditions for annexation in the DNR, LNR, and South Ossetia regions. However, the Kremlin has not formally announced that they are annexing the territory. It must first set political conditions for annexation, and that may take time. In the meantime, however, military gains in Ukraine could push the Kremlin to annex specific areas of the country faster.
The annexation of Donetsk is one way that Russian forces may try to assert their power. By annexing the region, they can claim victory without being forced to leave Ukraine. The Russian military might even be unable to function as a coherent fighting force, so it could force Putin to accept less than he’d originally desired. The Russian annexation of Donetsk, and perhaps even more regions in the Donbas, would be an important consolation prize for Kyiv.
Russian attacks on Kharkiv
The latest escalation in Ukraine’s crisis has left more than 500 civilians dead in Kharkiv. One of the victims, Ruslan, was a police officer. He was about to leave the Akademika Pavlova metro station, where many civilians sought refuge earlier this month. In the car with him were his brother Oleksandr and his mother. Amnesty International says that seven of the seven were likely cluster submunitions.
The attacks were launched by Russian forces on Tuesday night, striking central Kharkiv neighborhoods. The bombardment shattered residential buildings and blew out windows in a primary school. Medics and firefighters responded and rescued civilians. In one attack, a woman died of burns in a burned garage. Other victims were children. The number of injured civilians was not known. A prosecutor in Kharkiv said there were three separate explosions, including one that hit a bus and a residential building.
Russian recognition of two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine
A new development in the Ukraine crisis is the Russian government’s decision to recognize two breakaway regions in the east. Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Russia will recognize the two breakaway regions. The two breakaway regions were formed in 2014, when Russia supported separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine. The Russian government has provided peacekeeping services to the breakaway regions, but the US has warned Russia against doing so. The two regions have been at odds with Kiev since the conflict began.
Russia’s recognition of the breakaway regions has prompted the United States and its European allies to consider sanctions against Russian entities that invest in the two breakaway regions. The United States and its European allies have urged Russia to stop the escalation by imposing sanctions on those involved. The US President called Putin’s recognition a “blatant violation of international obligations” and said sanctions would impose a new ban on all foreign investment in these regions.