Seven reasons the conflict in Ukraine is actually a Russian invasion
Since the start of the war in Ukraine, Kremlin media and officials have tried to shape it as an internal conflict in which Russia plays no part. While Western media afdmit vast Russian aid to the so-called “separatists,” they still largely use such terms as “rebels” and “government troops,” unwittingly contributing to the Kremlin’s civil war narrative. This is understandable, since this manufactured conflict is shaped to look like a bona fide civil war, with Russia denying its involvement save for the “volunteers” on vacation who choose to fight for the “separatists” in Donbas. Yet there are several facts demonstrating that this war is not an internal Ukrainian conflict.
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1. It was started by the Russian media
Since the Euromaidan protests, Kremlin-aligned media has created an avalanche of propaganda aimed to discredit the protesters as Western-backed, and exaggerate the role played by far right groups. Stories of “fascist atrocities”, and grasping at any mistakes of the new authorities such as a hasty repeal of Yanukovych’s law granting Russian language regional status initially fueled the pro-Russian protests across largely Russian-speaking South-Eastern Ukraine. Subsequently, pro-Putin media has capitalized on the Odesa tragedy, the Mariupol clashes, and Donbas civilians killed by Ukrainian return fire as a result of the terrorists’ human shield tactics. This has been mobilizing volunteers to the separatist cause from both Donbas and Russia. Perhaps without the Russian media influence the conflict would never have started in the first place.
Image: an example of external advertising in Crimea after masked Russian troops invaded the peninsula, and before the illegal “referendum” of 16 March 2014. The sign reads: “on March 16 we choose – [Crimea with swastika] or [Crimea with Russian flag]. Similar posters are on the territories of the so-called separatist “republics.”
2. An ex-FSB colonel 'pulled the trigger of war'
The pro-Russian riots in Kharkiv, during which the protesters managed to seize the regional administration building, now remain little more than a footnote in the history of the pre-war period. What made the “rebellion” in Donetsk different was the group of masked men suddenly moving across Donbas and seizing police buildings to obtain weapons. Igor “Strelkov” Girkin, the ex-“Defense Minister” of the “DNR”, admitted in an interview in November he was the one who “pulled the trigger” of the war in Donbas by creating this unit in Crimea from Russian and local volunteers:
“I was the one who pressed the trigger of that war. If our unit had not crossed the border, it would have all ended as it did in Kharkiv or Odesa. Several dozen casualties, those with burns and those arrested. And that would have been the end of it… It was practically our unit, which got this ongoing war moving.”
3. The 'Founding fathers' of the Donetsk Republic were Russian
Two Russians (Muscovites, actually) stood at the roots of the so-called DNR – the aforementioned Igor Girkin and the Republic’s first civilian leader Alexander Borodai. Apparently these two invaders have quite a long history together, always advocating Russian expansionism and post-Cold War revanchism even when it was far from mainstream. They are both professionally connected to a Russian orthodox oligarch Konstantin Malofeev, openly dreaming of a renewed Russian empire. Later, the two Muscovites were forced to leave Donbas, while according to Russian sources Kremlin representatives have taken direct control while maintaining Ukrainian nationals like the DNR’s “Prime Minister” Zakharchenko as a figurehead. Apart from that, many of the DNR leading figures are Russian nationals.
4. Russia has been supplying the war since summer 2014
At this point, the conflict could seem a private (although still Russian) endeavor if not for the steady flow of weapons across the Russian border. The supplies started in June after the terrorists captured most Ukrainian checkpoints on their stretch of the border with Russia, effectively making the border unmonitored. While there is little proof presented to back numerous Ukrainian and NATO claims of Russian weaponry crossing the border, there is the issue of OSCE being barred from most border checkpoints, as well as several convincing proofs of Russian vehicles seen first in Russia and then in Donbas, most notably the BUK SAM system that is believed to have shot down MH-17. Some of the vehicles and weaponry documented in Ukraine are Russian-developed and have never been in use by Ukrainian armed forces.
5. Russian artillery shelled Ukrainian troops across the border
In the first act of open warfare, in July 2014 Russian artillery opened fire on Ukrainian troops semi-encircled who had attempted to secure the border. The attacks have been documented in various a number of social media accounts and in videos, and later conclusively proven by the Bellingcat open source investigation project. The artillery attacks led to heavy losses of Ukrainian equipment and personnel and subsequent withdrawal of the troops back to the west.
Image: released by NATO
6. Russian troops have been fighting in Donbas since August
Aside from the obvious use of Russian troops in the occupation of Crimea, there were several cases of extensive use of Russian troops inside Ukraine. Perhaps most notably, in August 2014 while the “separatist” defenses were crumbling under a Ukrainian offensive, several groups of Russian forces crossed the border resulting in the Ilovaisk disaster and the capture of Novoazovsk in the south. This was confirmed by Ukrainian and NATO sources, but, perhaps most notably, with numerous reports of Russian soldiers wounded and killed in Ukraine and total Russian losses numbering in the hundreds. Recently another story emerged of a tank gunner from Russian Eastern Siberia, who crossed the border with his tank unit to fight in the Debaltseve offensive.
7. The 'local rebels' aren’t as local as it might seem
Despite everything detailed above it may still be argued that Russia merely aids and influences what is essentially a local rebellion. However, closer examination of the “Novorossiya armed forces” clearly demonstates that large parts of these forces are Russian nationals, more often than not recruited and trained in Russia. Prisoner interrogations and voluntary accounts of these “rebels” reveal that Russia is essentially creating new army units; training, arming, and sometimes even commanding them. There have also been numerous claims that the number of local volunteers is alarmingly low, although it is impossible to find out exactly how many of the local rebels are Ukrainian citizens.
So what kind of war is it?
The conflict unfolding in Ukraine had it casus belli created by Russian propaganda, started by units formed in Russia, commanded by Russian nationals for quite a long time, fueled by Russian weapons and armor, directly involving Russian artillery and regular troops, as well as irregulars massively coming from Russia. When you look at these established facts, it is no longer possible to call this Russia-Ukraine war an internal conflict, even if it was created to look like one.
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