Ukrainian Separatists retreat to last stand

Separatist militias in the Ukrainian cities of Donetsk and Luhansk have retreated to fortified barricades in anticipation of advancing government forces through the eastern provinces. Key bridges into the towns have been blown up, and separatist leaders complain of having been abandoned by Russia. Ukrainian government officials said that they succeeded in sealing the previously porous border with Russia, preventing the entry of more militia and weaponry. Poroshenko and his new defense minister Valeriy Heletey said there would be no more unilateral ceasefires with separatist troops – after a 10-day ceasefire saw false hope that the conflict would be resolved peacefully.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s silence has been questioned by many, especially coming on the heels of remarks last week that he would protect ethnic Russians wherever they may be. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said simply that “a quick end to the bloodshed is in our common interest.” Ukrainian officials have been busy setting up blockades to isolate separatists in the cities. Analysts have noted that despite the quick advance of government troops, pitched battles in the big cities may last weeks. With Donetsk as a city of 1 million and Luhansk with more than 400,000 – many civilians have fled, hoping not to be caught in the midst of the hostilities.

Western leaders are still busy denouncing Russia and Ukrainian separatists, with the latest voice to join the chorus Angers Fogh Rasmussen, the secretary general of NATO. He contended that Russia was playing a “double game” in Ukraine, issuing statements endorsing peace while massing its forces along the border and smuggling arms to separatists. He ended by encouraging more sanctions against Russia and separatists.

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