If Russia's intention was to give Ukraine enough "escalation" rope with which to hang itself once again, it may have succeeded when a little over an hour ago acting president Oleksander Turchinov said in a televized address that Ukraine has mobilized its armed forces to launch a "full-scale anti-terrorist operation" against pro-Russian separatists. Furthermore, knowing the only real escalation Kiev can engage in is in the war of words department, Ukraine set an 0600 GMT Monday deadline for pro-Russian separatists to give up their weapons and leave buildings they have occupied in the east of the country, a presidential decree said. It is unclear if this would be the catalyst to launch the military operation, but should Kiev indeed bring in the army it is certainly clear that Russia will respond in kind.
Angered by the death of a state security officer and the wounding of two of his comrades near the flashpoint eastern city of Slaviansk, Turchinov gave rebels occupying state buildings until Monday morning to lay down their weapons.
He blamed Russia, which opposed a pro-Europe uprising that forced Moscow-backed former president Viktor Yanukovich to flee, for being behind the rash of rebellions across Russian-speaking towns in eastern Ukraine.
"The blood of Ukrainian heroes has been shed in a war which the Russian Federation is waging against Ukraine," he said in an address to the nation. "The aggressor has not stopped and is continuing to sow disorder in the east of the country."
Russia promptly responded, alleging Ukraine's planned operation is criminal:
Russia's Foreign Ministry said on Sunday that an announcement by the authorities in Kiev that they will mobilise the army to put down a rebellion by pro-Russian militants in eastern Ukraine was a "criminal order".
The ministry said the West should bring its allies in Ukraine's government under control. "It is now the West's responsibility to prevent civil war in Ukraine," it said in a statement posted on Facebook.
It also said that Russia would put an urgent discussion of the situation in eastern Ukraine on the agenda of the United Nations Security Council.
"The situation in southeastern Ukraine is taking on an extremely dangerous character. The authorities in Kiev, who put themselves in power as a result of a coup d'etat, have set a course to use force to put down popular protests," the statement said.
"We decisively condemn attempts to use brute force against protesters and activists ... We are particularly indignant about the criminal order of (Ukrainian Acting President Oleksander Turchinov) to use the army to put down protest."
The statement said the West had sponsored the rulers in Kiev and should now "rein in its out-of-control proteges, force them to distance themselves from neo-Nazis and other extremists, stop using armed force against the Ukrainian people, and immediately start a genuine dialogue".
As usual, the only solace out of NATO was issuing wordy statements:
With East-West relations in crisis, NATO described the appearance in eastern Ukraine of men with specialised Russian weapons and identical uniforms without insignia - as previously worn by Moscow's troops when they seized Crimea - as a "grave development".
Adding even more fuel to what increasingly appear a civil war fire, was self-exiled president Yanukovich who said in a televized from Russia's Roston-on-Don that Ukraine is a foot in the door to civil war. “Blood was spilt today,” Yankovich told journalists referring to the events in the eastern city of Slavyansk. “Now our country finds itself in a totally new situation – with one foot in the door of a civil war. Kiev junta has issued a criminal order to use military forces.”
Part of the responsibility for dragging the country into domestic war lays on the US, which brutally interfere in the situation and to point out what to do, Yanukovich said. The ousted president declared that CIA chief John Brennan visited Ukraine and it was after the meeting that the coup-imposed authorities in Kiev ordered a military operation in the country’s east.
Brennan “de facto sanctioned” the use of weapons and thus provoked the bloodshed, Yanukovich said.
Ukraine is now “inexorably” heading towards bankruptcy, Yanukovich also warned in his speech.
So according to the counter-West narrative, it is the CIA's actions that have led to the escalation in the east, not Russian actions. Bottom line: for now lots of enflamed words, yet no actual actions to resist the "pro Russia separatists." And in the meantime the casualties mount:
Though the Ukrainian military did not resist the Russian takeover of Crimea with force, Turchinov threatened robust action against the rebels in the east. "The National Security and Defence Council has decided to launch a full-scale anti-terrorist operation involving the armed forces of Ukraine," he declared.
Ukraine has repeatedly said the rebellions are inspired and directed by the Kremlin. But action to dislodge the armed militants risks tipping the stand-off into a new, dangerous phase as Moscow has warned it will protect the region's Russian-speakers if they come under attack.
One Ukrainian state security officer was killed and five were wounded on the government side in Sunday's operation in Slaviansk, interior minister Arsen Avakov said. "There were dead and wounded on both sides," he wrote on his Facebook page.
Looking ahead in terms of immediate catalysts, 0600 GMT is in a few hours hours, and certainly well before the US market opens. What happens then, certainly nothing if Russian response to previous Ukraine ultimatums is any indication, may determine of last week's sell off continues in earnest on Monday or if, by some surprising development, there is a relief rally.
Finally, this just in: SECURITY COUNCIL WILL MEET AT 8 PM NY TIME FOR EMERGENCY MEETING ON UKRAINE CRISIS - RUSSIA'S NEWS AGENCY CITING UN SOURCE.
Or just in time for the Nikkei open.