This is ominous:
Russia’s Defense Ministry announced new military operations in several regions near the Ukrainian border on Thursday, even as Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany warned the Kremlin to abandon the politics of the 19th and 20th centuries or face diplomatic and economic retaliation from a united Europe.
The operations came as Ukraine’s acting president, Oleksandr V. Turchynov, was quoted by Ukrainian news media as saying Russian forces that had massed near the border were “ready to invade.”
Underscoring the potential gravity of the troop movements, Russia’s senior commander, Valery V. Gerasimov, spoke by telephone with his NATO counterpart, Gen. Knud Bartles of Denmark, the news agency Interfax reported, citing a defense source. The details of the conversation were not disclosed.
In Moscow, the military acknowledged significant operations involving armored and airborne troops in the Belgorod, Kursk and Rostov regions abutting eastern Ukraine, where many ethnic Russians have protested against the new interim government in Ukraine’s capital, Kiev, and appealed to Moscow for protection.
A day after a deputy minister denied any military buildup on the border, the Defense Ministry released a series of statements beginning early Thursday that appeared to contradict that. They outlined what was described as intensive training of units involving artillery batteries, assault helicopters and at least 10,000 soldiers.
The operations confirmed, at least in part, assertions by Ukrainian leaders on Wednesday that Russia was massing forces, as well as amateur photographs that appeared to show columns of armored vehicles and trucks in a border village called Lopan, only 30 miles from the Ukrainian city Kharkiv. One statement announced that another 1,500 paratroopers from Ivanovo, east of Moscow, had parachuted onto a military base in Rostov, not far from the Ukrainian cities Donetsk and Lugansk.
Meanwhile, it is worth noting that the Ukrainian prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, has sought to be as reasonable towards the Russians as one can possibly be:
Ukraine’s Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk offered to negotiate an “equal partnership” with Russia if it ends its invasion of Crimea, and praised the Western response to the crisis following his talks today at the White House.
“I would like to reiterate that we still want to have a free, equal partnership… with Russia. And we can’t do [that] having a military incursion,” Yatsenyuk said at the Atlantic Council. “The best strategy is to sit and to negotiate. … The best approach for Russia is just to stop, and calm down.”
It remains to be seen, of course, whether Russia will eventually decide to “stop, and calm down.” Thus far, the Russians have done everything within their considerable power to exacerbate tensions.