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Russian seizure of eastern Ukraine underway

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Armed Russians in full military battle gear, but with no identifying insignia other than the Ribbon of St. George appeared seemingly out of nowhere April 13 and began to set up roadblocks and checkpoints across Donetsk Oblast in Ukraine. The troops carried out their task as pro-Russian protesters attacked government buildings and police stations across Donetsk. This parallel pattern of protests in conjunction with troop deployments is a repeat of the Crimea operation.

As the Donetsk regional police chief resigned per demand of Russian provocateurs, Ukrainian lawmaker Oleg Tsariov of the former ruling Party of Regions declared his support for Russian separatists in Luhansk, east of Donetsk in Ukraine. Tsariov had previously met a far less welcoming reception in the city of Odessa on the Black Sea coast in western Ukraine.

In Kherson Oblast Russian spies, provocateurs and saboteurs continue to be caught by Ukrainian security services attempting to conduct military reconnaissance and recruit local ethnic Russians into clandestine services and operations. One former member of the Ukrainian armed forces living in Kherson was apprehended carrying out orders of the Russian Black Sea Fleet Intelligence Directorate. Kherson Oblast borders Crimea and would be the first non-Crimean territory fought on and advanced over in any Russian military breakout from Crimea.

Donetsk Oblast borders Russia to the southeast and Zaporozhye Oblast to the west, which borders Kherson Oblast. There have also been clashes and unrest in Kharkiv; situated further north and away from Crimea. It's likely the goal of this Russian operation is to establish a full land connection to Crimea. Currently the only connection is via a ferry service to Kerch, Crimea. The Russian have been positioning T-72 main battle tanks in Crimea.

In Moscow, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov cited a failure of the government in Kiev to demonstrate its inability to take responsibility for the fate of the country. Mr. Lavrov was speaking in response to U.S. Sec. of State John Kerry citing the similarities between events unfolding in eastern Ukraine and the initial appearance of Russian troops in Crimea Feb. 27.

The Kremlin has played the diplomatic clock since Crimea with one hand, while manipulating the situation on the ground rather masterfully with the other to filter Russian troops into eastern Ukraine. Part of the Maskirovka obviously used to achieve that, was distracting NATO and the Pentagon with large military maneuvers inside Russian territory. This juggling act also allowed Russia to avoid open combat with Ukrainian military forces thus far.

It has to be concluded that Russian troops appearing inside eastern Ukraine so stealthily can only be due to a 'fifth column' embedded within local Ukrainian government and perhaps military units in eastern Ukraine. A likely prospect since members of both would be locally recruited Ukrainian citizens and would include ethnic Russians, as evidenced by the arrest of one such operative in Kherson, who is former Ukrainian military.

At some point however, that advantage will slip away from the Kremlin. The backlash in Odessa against pro-Russian lawmaker Tsariov is indication of that. Western Ukraine, though containing some ethnic Russians does not contain them in anything approaching the numbers in the east half of the country. It is also not as easy to 'bus in' provocateurs since western Ukraine does not share a direct border with Russia.

It has been known for many weeks that busing of provocateurs into eastern Ukraine from Russia was taking place. However, it became embarrassingly apparent when 'protestors' marching to take over a police station in Kharkiv, took over the opera house thinking it was the police station. A mistake only out of town tourists could make, or thugs hired by the Kremlin.

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