The prospect of a divided Ukraine appears to be growing more likely by the minute. Separatists across the eastern part of the country ignored Kiev’s Monday-morning deadline to disarm or confront a “full-scale anti-terrorist operation,” and continue to occupy police stations and security offices in multiple cities, where violence has killed at least four people. Separatists have established a presence in Kharkiv, Luhansk, Donetsk, Horlivka, and Slovyansk—all cities “on major crossroads that connect vital parts of eastern Ukraine with Russia,” as The Interpreter points out.
In response to the ignored ultimatum, Ukrainian Interim President Oleksander Turchinov said the anti-terrorist operation would commence and said he is open to a nationwide referendum “on the future shape of the Ukrainian state,” which would take place on the same day as the Ukrainian presidential elections, May 25.
Hours after the ignored deadline, however, the Ukrainian offensive has yet to begin. Turchinov fired the security chief in charge of the operation, according to Reuters, and he has asked the UN to send peacekeeping troops to help with the offensive. Given that Russia is a member of the UN Security Council, the request is unlikely to be heeded.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has received “very many similar requests from the regions of eastern Ukraine” asking Russia to intervene, Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov told Russian media on Monday. Putin has signed a decree increasing his salary and that of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev 2.65 times. In 2012, Putin made 3.672 million rubles and Medvedev made 4.259 million rubles.
The State Department has overtly said that Russia seems to be supporting the separatist offensive, but praised the Ukrainian government’s restraint in the East. Ukrainian intelligence leaked intercepted phone conversations between Russians in east Ukraine and in Moscow today, which purportedly confirm Russian involvement in the unrest. In this video, an armed separatist admits that he is a lieutenant in the Russian army (if this seems familiar, it’s because exactly the same thing happened when Russian “self-defense forces” took over Crimea):
In Kiev, protesters outside the Interior Ministry demanded that the government take a stronger approach to the conflict. Fomer prime minister and now presidential candidate Yulia Tymoshenko said she’s in favor of an armed response in the east. In Moscow, some 10,000 people rallied in protest of Russian state media coverage of the Ukraine crisis:
Sunday night, Russia called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council, in which it urged Ukraine not to use force against separatists. On Monday, Russia test-fired an intercontinental ballistic missile that "can carry multiple independently-targetable nuclear warheads," RIA Novosti reports.
The EU approved a $3.2 billion aid package to Ukraine Monday, and the U.S. approved up to a $1 billion loan. EU foreign ministers are considering a third round of sanctions on Russia, Bloomberg reports. The U.S. is also moving to impose new sanctions.