Russia and Ukraine: Military marches

EVEN as Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, was heading to the G20 summit in Brisbane, Australia, tensions in Ukraine were escalating. Scores of tanks, lorries and artillery, unmarked and stripped of licence plates, were snaking along Ukrainian roads. Kiev accused Moscow of sending in more troops; Russia denied it. The ceasefire that never worked is close to being outright non-existent.This time the build-up began days before elections in eastern Ukraine’s separatist republics. Independent observers, including an OSCE monitoring mission, noticed large military convoys around Donetsk. On November 12th NATO’s senior commander, Philip Breedlove, said the alliance had seen Russian equipment, primarily tanks, artillery, air-defence systems and combat troops entering Ukraine. Ukraine’s prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, spoke of red lines being crossed.Russia never abided by September’s Minsk peace accords that demanded a withdrawal of its troops from the region, because it insisted it had none. But the latest escalation looks like a deliberate affront. It may partly reflect Mr Putin’s way of negotiating with the West. Escalating a conflict and then agreeing not to go any further in exchange for concessions has long been one of his favoured tactics. “Putin likes to open talks by putting a knife on the table first,” notes Kirill Rogov, a political analyst in Moscow.The West has…

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