While the biggest strategic news of the day is that the Crimean parliament voted to join Russia with a done deal referendum to be held in a few days, as well as collapse of the anti-Russian sanction lobby with Germany and others getting cold feet against boycotting Russian goods, the tactical developments continue. Of note: earlier today the leader of the most persistent pro-Moscow protest movement in eastern Ukraine was arrested at his home in the city of Donetsk on Thursday, a Reuters journalist who was with police on the raid said. Around 10 members of the SBU security service arrested Pavel Gubarev at his apartment in a five-story Soviet-era block in the eastern city, on charges of "infringing the territorial integrity and independence of the state". He did not resist.
Gubarev, a Donetsk businessman, had led protesters who blockaded the regional administration building and flew the Russian flag until they were removed on Thursday. He had called himself the "people's governor" and demanded lawmakers sever ties with Kiev and put him in charge of the police force.
So if Russia needed yet another pretext to claim there is repression of pro-Russian individuals, Kiev gladly obliged.
Perhaps this explains why, as Bloomberg reports, the Russian military is restricting access of Ukrainian border troops to check-point buildings, border service says on its website. Bloomberg cites the Ukrainian statement as saying that Russian military use ultimatums to urge Ukrainian border troops to move and take side of self-proclaimed Crimean government. Blocked points include those near Massandra and Yevpatoria.
And some other re-escalation news: also according to Bloomberg, Russian military sank Ochakov ship in the Black Sea near Donuzlav on the eastern coast of the Crimean peninsula. Passage to Donuzlav lake is now blocked and Ukrainian navy ships are locked inside the lake. Bloomberg cited a defense ministry statement.
Still think Putin was de-escalating?
But here is the punchline:
- RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY, IN REACTION TO U.S. STATE DEPT "PRESIDENT PUTIN'S FICTION", SAYS WASHINGTON UNABLE TO ACCEPT THAT THINGS IN UKRAINE ARE NOT DEVELOPING AS THEY EXPECTED THEM TO
Which is why we fully expect John Kerry to make some more hollow threats and call it a day.