Now that Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine, the east part of the country is worried they will be Russia’s next target. But Russian President Vladimir Putin is not the only one who threatens Ukraine in the east. Pro-Russians have been protesting and rallying in eastern cities to join Russia.
Donetsk is one of those cities. Governor Serhiy Taruta said his city will fight against Russia, but pro-Russians might stop him. The majority of the population are ethnic Russians. On March 13, pro-Ukrainians organized a peaceful rally at Lenin Square, but the pro-Russians attacked them. It turned violent, and two people were killed. Then, on March 15 and 16, pro-Russians gathered in Lenin Square and moved to government buildings around the city. They stormed inside, removed the Ukrainian flag, and raised the Russian flag.
According to The Telegraph, despite these actions, Taruta said he will allocate funds to build trenches and other forms of defense against Russia. “This is going to cost us as much as the price of 15 new helicopters,” said Taruta. He promised that action will be taken against pro-Russians who break the law. Pro-Ukrainians demanded tougher actions after the violence caused the death of one of theirs on March 13. “The soft touch is over; we are now going to defend ourselves,” he vowed.
Russia moved over 200,000 soldiers to the Ukraine border and engaged in military exercises. Moscow said this action was taken to familiarize the soldiers with unfamiliar land. Ukraine responded with a resolution for a national guard consisting of 60,000 people and called up 20,000 reservists. Eight U.S. senators visited Kiev last week, and John McCain (R-AZ) told parliament he will encourage President Obama to send weapons and military supplies to Ukraine.
Sky News Chief Correspondent Stuart Ramsey described the Russia-Ukraine border:
The land here is extremely open.
A short distance away, thousands of Russian troops have been carrying out manoeuvres for the past few days.
If they decide to come into Ukraine, this is the way they’ll come – and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop them.
Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the BBC there are no plans to invade east Ukraine:
“No one is speaking about … using forces in the eastern regions [of Ukraine],” Putin spokesman [Dmitry] Peskov tells the BBC’s Stephen Sackur. “Definitely it’s not on the agenda. But we don’t want to make any forecasts for bloodshed that can occur in the eastern regions. Because if the Ukrainian government pays no attention to the gravest situation in the eastern regions then the consequences may be very, very bad.”
More from President Putin’s spokesman [Dmitry] Peskov in an interview with the BBC: “Russia will do whatever is possible, using all legal means, in total correspondence with international law, to protect and to extend a hand to Russians living in eastern regions of Ukraine.”
The West imposed more sanctions against Russia on Monday and promised more if Russia continues to violate Ukraine’s sovereignty. The sanctions are not working, and Russian officials are openly insulting President Obama on social media. The Daily Beast reported that Russia will place sanctions against US politicians and Obama officials.