It Begins: Russia Sends 'Humanitarian' Force Into Ukraine

Putin has been threatening to send in a "humanitarian" force into Ukraine over the past week or two. Now, according to the AP, he has done it.

The AP includes precious little detail, other than to note that Russia's "humanitarian" force is going in "in cooperation with the Red Cross." Putin has reportedly informed the European Union of the "humanitarian" mission.

Russia Today -- funded by the Kremlin -- says that Ukraine also agreed have the Russians come in.

That seems unlikely -- Ukraine just yesterday accused Russia of trying to "sneak" "peacekeepers" into its territory.

Ukraine said it had stopped a column of Russian troops posing as “peacekeepers” traveling with a humanitarian convoy as they reached the border. Valery Chaly, deputy head of Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko’s administration, said the peacekeepers were going to Ukraine to trigger unrest and provoke further conflict.

The Russian troops were part of a convoy that was reportedly part of an agreement with the Red Cross, Reuters reported. "A humanitarian column with 'peacekeepers' was to enter the territory of Ukraine, clearly to provoke a full-scale conflict," Chaly said in a statement. Russia has denied Ukraine's claims and Maria Zakharova, a Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, said Kiev "is more and more inventive in creating fairy tales."

Here's the way to bet: As the US ramps up involvement in Iraq due to ISIS' rolling victories and the chaos in Baghdad, Putin is seizing the moment to poke Russia's way into Ukraine to help its proxies, who have been taking a beating from the Kiev government lately. Who's going to stop him?

At the least, the "humanitarian" force -- about 20,000 strong and heavily armed as of last week -- would be enough to  consolidate the rebels'/proxies' territory in east Ukraine, which they have been losing in recent clashes with the central government's troops.