Ukrainian authorities sent security forces to Kharkiv to clear the country’s second-biggest city of separatists as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry accused Russia of using “special forces and agents” to spark unrest.
An “anti-terrorist operation” was under way in Kharkiv, 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the Russian border, with the subway closed and the center sealed off, Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said today. The Russian government said its neighbor’s crackdown risks sparking civil war.
“Provocateurs have been sent there to create chaos,” Kerry told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in Washington. “These efforts are as ham-handed as they are transparent,” Kerry said. He accused Russia of working to “create a contrived crisis with paid operatives across an international boundary.”
Unfortunately, there is no nice, diplomatic way out of this problem for the West and capitulation would embolden Putin. Increasing Western sanctions may make him more aggressive but that would also be a sign of Putin’s political vulnerability. This situation could drag on for years or end relatively quickly if a sufficient number of Russia’s oligarchs have the courage to overthrow him. They may soon have the incentive but the personal risks could not be higher.Back to top