Emmanuel Ahonkhai

 

Ukraine’s government announced on Sunday, April 13 that it was sending troops to the country’s vital industrial east in an attempt to quell an increasingly audacious pro-Russian insurgency that that has taken place in the eastern European state.

Blaming Moscow for inciting the unrest, the new Ukrainian President Oleksandr Turchynov said in a televised address that such a “large-scale anti-terrorist operation” would ensure that Russia did not “repeat the Crimean scenario in Ukraine’s east.” Thousands of Russian troops are currently massed along Ukraine’s eastern border and this has led to fears that Moscow might use unrest in the predominantly Russian-speaking region as cover for an invasion.

In essence, Ukraine’s interim government has been facing immense pressure from Russia since its February ouster of the unpopular Kremlin-backed president Viktor Yanukovych and its attempts to forge closer ties with the West.

Earlier on Sunday, Ukrainian armed forces exchanged fire with a pro-Russia militia outside the eastern city of Slavyansk — the first reported gun battle in the east, where armed pro-Russian militants have seized government buildings to press their demands for referendums on autonomy and possible incorporation into the Russian Federation.

Unrest has spread to several municipalities across eastern Ukraine, including the major industrial city of Donetsk, which has a vast Russian-speaking population. Ethnic Russians in Ukraine’s east generally fear that the new pro-Western Ukrainian government will suppress them. The seizures of government buildings in eastern Ukraine symbolize how little control Kiev’s untested leaders have over pro-Russians, who have since also dominated the Donetsk government seat and controlled a state security building in the eastern city of Lugansk since April 6.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State John Kerry warned Russia of “additional consequences” if it fails to withdraw its troops from the Ukraine border. In a telephone call with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Kerry “made clear that if Russia did not take measures to de-escalate in eastern Ukraine and pull its troops back from the border, there would be additional consequences,” a State Department official revealed.

Moreover, a wave of US sanctions, which took effect in March, blacklisted officials and businesspeople close to Russian President Vladimir Putin in reaction to Moscow’s annexation of Crimea, a southern region of Ukraine. “We will continue to impose costs on those involved in ongoing violations of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” stated the Treasury Department’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, David S. Cohen.

Basically, the sanctions freeze any of the individuals’ assets present in the United States and ban them from conducting business there or with US citizens or entities. Additionally, Vice President Joe Biden will travel to Ukraine on April 22 to engender support for Kiev and to promote steps to improve the country’s energy security, the White House claimed in a statement.

Attempts to resolve the conflict are currently underway. With Russia and the West still in discord over how to resolve not merely the situation in the east but the larger political crisis in Ukraine, officials said that four-way talks, involving the United States, Russia, the European Union and the new Ukrainian government, will be held in Geneva on Thursday.  As the crisis grows increasingly volatile, it is imperative that a solution be found sooner rather than later.