Although most world leaders have not actually come out and said so, Ukraine is being invaded. That’s according to Ukrainian politicians and military officials, NATO representatives, and, privately, officials in Washington.
What, exactly, is going on on the ground? Satellite images shared by NATO yesterday showed Russian artillery units just outside Ukraine’s borders, and Russian military units moving in Krasnodon, Ukraine, an eastern area controlled by separatists:
Those images are from several days ago, though. At a press conference, Dutch Brigadier General Nico Tak filled in more details of what NATO is currently seeing in eastern Ukraine:
Ukrainian security officials have just updated their map of what they call a “blatant invasion” of Russian troops throughout the east. The fighting along the southeastern coast is particularly worrying, representing a new front away from the separatist strongholds of Donetsk and Luhansk, and threatening the strategic port city of Mariupol, along the road that runs from mainland Russia to Crimea:
On the ground, Ukraine troops in the southeastern city of Novoazovsk told Vice News that they’re not getting the support they need to repel invading fighters. Russia Today released a video of a separatist flag being raised over a Novoazovsk state building. And Ukraine’s security council distributed a video of what it said was a Russian tank in Novoazovsk:
Overnight, Russian president Vladimir Putin issued an appeal to the separatist groups to create a “humanitarian corridor” in order to allow besieged Ukrainian troops to return “to their mothers, wives and children.” But in addressing the rebels as the “Novorossiya militia,” he employed a provocative Czarist era term that implies Russian ownership of a big chunk of modern-day Ukraine. A separatist leader said that his forces would grant safe passage for Ukrainian troops to flee the fighting, on the condition that they left all of their weapons behind.
On the diplomatic front, EU foreign ministers are meeting today, ahead of a meeting of government leaders tomorrow. Thus far, none of the West’s major powers have called the advance of anti-Ukrainian forces a Russian “invasion,” speaking instead of “incursions,” “aggression,” and similar allusions:
But some of the EU states closest to Russia are not mincing words—Lithuania’s foreign ministry called the latest fighting an “obvious invasion of the territory of Ukraine by the armed forces of the Russian Federation” and Estonia’s president dubbed it “an undeclared war.” Whichever way they describe Russia’s role in the latest spasm of violence, several EU leaders say that additional sanctions against Russia will be on the agenda of their summit tomorrow. The Russian ruble set a new all-time low against the dollar earlier today, extending losses after yesterday’s rout in the markets.
The United Nations published a report today on the human cost of the conflict in Ukraine, noting that at least 2,593 people—around 36 per day—have been killed as a result of the fighting. Nearly 200,000 people in the country have been displaced, including more than half of the residents of Donetsk and Luhansk. Some 468 people are believed to be detained by “various armed groups,” the UN said. In a separate report, released yesterday, Human Rights Watch revealed evidence that separatist fighters are “arbitrarily detaining civilians and subjecting them to torture, degrading treatment, and forced labor.”