Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said today that Ukraine is in a state of “civil war.”
That’s the pre-text upon which Russia is expected to launch military action against Ukraine — to “protect” ethnic Russians living in eastern Ukraine, as it “protected” ethnic Russians in Crimea.
The “civil war” is actually the government of Ukraine cracking down on pro-Russian groups that have been causing unrest over the past few days. Ukraine’s action, while necessary, falls right along with Russia’s plans.
Meanwhile, forces have been battling over an airport in eastern Ukraine, according to the AP.
KRAMATORSK, Ukraine (AP) — In the first Ukrainian military action against a pro-Russian uprising in the east, special forces on Tuesday recaptured a small airport that had been occupied by militiamen, the government said.
Ukraine’s acting president, Oleksandr Turchynov, had earlier announced an “anti-terrorist operation” against the insurgents who have seized control of numerous buildings in the east of the country.
Heavy gunfire rang out at the airport near the town Kramatorsk. Russian state television reported four to 11 people had been killed, but there was no independent confirmation of any casualties. Much of the shooting appeared to have been warning shots into the air.
The armed pro-Russian militias are occupying government, police and other administrative buildings in at least nine cities in the Russian-speaking east of the country around the major industrial city of Donetsk. They are demanding broader autonomy and closer ties with Russia.
The “militiamen” who seized the buildings might or might not be Russian troops. When Russia invaded Ukraine, its troops wore uniforms without any national markings. Obscuring the identity of the “militiamen” could well be another of Russia’s gambits to create confusion, and some degree of deniability if that turns out to be useful.