Ukraine Faces Threat of Russian Invasion from Several Sides, President Warns

Ukrainian servicemen in their positions in trenches close to Shyrokino village near Mariupol, Ukraine 21 April 2015. Photo: EPA

  • Ukraine’s President Poroshenko fears his country could be invaded from Russia directly, and via Donbass, Crimea, and Transnistria
  • Invasion could happen at any time, according to Poroshenko
  • Tens of thousands of volunteers have joined Ukrainian military recently
  • Russian leader Putin denies Ukrainians the right to be a separate nation, Poroshenko deems

Ukraine still faces the possibility of an all-out invasion by its neighbor Russia in light of the ongoing conflict between the government forces and the pro-Russian rebels in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbass, Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko has warned.

Speaking at a meeting at the General Staff headquarters of the Ukrainian armed forces, Poroshenko expressed concerned that his country could be invaded by Russia under President Vladimir Putin at any moment, and from several directions.

He also discussed what he saw as positive development of the Ukrainian military in light of the ongoing war in Donbass, promising additional investments in new equipment and capabilities.

Ukraine and Russia have been locked in a “cold” diplomatic war accompanied by the “hot” conflict in the Russian-speaking regions in the Ukrainian east since the pro-Western Euromaidan Revolution in 2013-2014, which ousted pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych.

Russia’s leader Vladimir Putin reacted by seizing and annexing Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in the Black Sea, and possibly by instigating the pro-Russian insurgency in Donbass where the rebels and the Ukrainian forces face each other along a 250-mile (400 km) frontline.

Full-Fledged Threat

Ukrainian President Poroshenko’s new warning that his country could face a Russian invasion comes amid an escalation of violence along the frontline since January 2017 which may or may not be defused by a renewal of the Minsk II agreement ceasefire negotiated over the past weekend by the Foreign Ministers of Ukraine, Russia, Germany, and France (the so called Normandy Format).

“The threat of a full-fledged war [waged on us] by Russia hasn’t gone anywhere,” Poroshenko told the Ukrainian General Staff on Wednesday, as cited by the Ukrainian news agency UNIAN.

“This threat comes not just from the border areas in Donbass that we do not control… it comes from all borders with the Russian Federation, and beyond,” he added.

His statements made clear his fear that, should Russia under President Vladimir Putin decide to invade Ukraine, it could do so from at least three fronts: through their common border in the north and east, through the frontline Ukraine has with the self-proclaimed states of the pro-Russian separatists in Donbass in the east (the so called Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics), from the annexed Crimean Peninsula in the south, and from Transnistria, Moldova’s pro-Russian breakaway region, in the southwest.

“The Russian military detachment to the southwest, in the Transnistria region of Moldova is not controlled by [Moldova’s capital] Kishinev, and in my deep conviction, could be used at any time against us, and threatens our borders,” the Ukrainian President declared.

Official public data indicate that there are about 1,700 Russian troops stationed in Moldova’s breakaway region Transnistria, counting in those with a peacekeeper status.

Poroshenko also added that the Russian troops in Transnistria could be used as an auxiliary to the over Russian troops in the annexed Crimean Peninsula.

“Even though, according to our data, they are not that many, as auxiliaries to the over 20,000 soldiers in the annexed Crimea, they can create further trouble for us,” the Ukrainian leader said.

Ukrainian soldier salutes President Petro Poroshenko (l) during the opening ceremony of joint military exercises near the Western Ukrainian City of Lviv Ukraine 20 April 2015. Photo: EPA

On Putin’s Alleged View of Ukraine

In his address to the Ukrainian military, Poroshenko in essence accused his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin and his government of refusing to recognize that the Ukrainians are a separate nation that is different from the Russians, and compared this alleged line of thinking to that of the Nazis.

“It is precisely the non-recognition of Ukrainians’ right to self-determination which lies in the foundation of today’s Russian policy towards Ukraine,” the Ukrainian President said, adding that there were no reasons to expect that would change any time soon.

“For Putin, the border with Ukraine does not exist. He doesn’t deem us a different country. The non-recognition of different nations was a reason for occupation for the Nazis,” Poroshenko said, as cited by his Press Secretary in a tweet.

The Ukrainian leader also revealed that a total of 70,000 volunteers joined the Ukrainian armed forces in 2016, and another 4,500 did so since the start of 2017, which removed the need to mobilize soldiers.

He said that in 2017, Ukraine was going to spend UAH 9 billion (app. USD 334 million) on new military equipment, which, while not a huge figure, would still be a burden for the cash-strapped state budget.

The war in Eastern Ukraine has already claimed over 9,700 lives, and has displaced millions of people.

Even though it first covertly sent troops with unmarked uniforms to occupy the Crimean Peninsula before openly annexing it in March 2014, the government of Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied official involvement in the war in Donbass, claiming that any Russian citizens fighting there do so on their own free will.

Russia’s involvement in the conflict in Eastern Ukraine, however, has been exposed by Russian servicemen captured by the Ukrainian forces at the beginning of the conflict, and on February 18, 2017, Putin issued a decree recognizing all civilian documents issued by the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics.

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