In a new Russian TV interview, President Vladimir Putin was asked about the prospect of war between Russia and Ukraine. “I think that such an apocalyptic scenario is unlikely and I hope this will never happen,” said the Russian leader. This will come as news to many Ukrainians who view Russia as already fighting a war with their country, In the Putinverse, war with Ukraine is “unlikely.” For everyone not watching Russian TV, it’s already happening.
Putin also said that if the Minsk Agreement reached earlier this month were fully implemented, the situation in Eastern Ukraine would “gradually stabilize.” Too bad he’s the one not implementing it, sending troops over the border and supporting the separatist rebels who continued to seize territory after the Minsk agreement was reached. As for the week-old ceasefire, the Ukrainian government said last Friday that it had already been violated at least 300 times.
This disconnect led Secretary of State John Kerry today to accuse Russia of lying about its involvement in the conflict and of engaging in “the most overt and extensive propaganda exercise that I’ve seen since the very height of the Cold War.”
The U.S. is threatening more sanctions against Russia over what it’s calling a “land grab”—the seizure of the transportation hub of Debaltseve last week after the ceasefire had gone into effect. The U.S. is also dipping a pinky toe into providing Ukraine with military aid. Between 5 to 10 U.S. troops are heading to the country to provide medical training to Ukrainian forces. Prime Minister David Cameron also announced today that Britain is sending military personnel to provide training ranging from “tactical intelligence to logistics, to medical care.”
This is a long way from the kind of military aid that Ukraine has requested and that the Obama administration claims to be considering, but if the ceasefire continues to collapse, it could inch toward more robust support.
Whatever happens, don’t expect Putin to call it a war.