The war in Ukraine: Closing in

THE battle for eastern Ukraine may be entering a decisive phase. Since early July Ukraine’s re-energised armed forces have been on the offensive against 15,000 or so Russian-backed separatists. The Ukrainians are close to achieving two important objectives: surrounding Donetsk, the region’s biggest city, and establishing some control over border crossings through which Russia has been sending arms convoys. But the next stage of the intensifying conflict could be bloodier. Much will depend on how far Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, is prepared to go to try to save the separatists from defeat.Ukraine, under its newly elected president, Petro Poroshenko, used a poorly observed ten-day ceasefire in June to prepare a much more aggressive campaign, according to a senior Pentagon official. Its main elements were the use of air power to provide close support for ground troops and a new willingness both to take casualties and to put civilians at risk from shelling. The Americans are contributing “nonlethal” help in the form of intelligence, military advice and $20m worth of kit, including Kevlar body armour.The first breakthrough came on July 5th….

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