If Putin needed a pretext to finally drive across the Ukraine border, he got it today following first the death of nearly 40 pro-Russian protesters in Odessa during a confrontation between pro-Russia and pro-Kiev forces, and then, what appears to be a storming in progress right now by the Ukraine national guard of yet another separatist-controlled city in east Ukraine: Kramatorsk.
According to RT, Ukraine’s National Guard is storming the eastern town of Kramatorsk even as it has also resumed its special operation in Slavyansk, where two soldiers have been killed.
“The assault is starting now,” a Kramatorsk self-defense activist has told RIA Novosti by phone. Another activist told the news agency that the National Guard opened fire on self-defense forces.
Dozens have been killed or injured in Kramatorsk, a doctor told RIA Novosti. The medic added that the fighting has now stopped and all of those injured have been taken to hospitals in Kramatorsk and Slavyansk. At least two died on the way to the hospital, she said.
Meanwhile, the Ukrainian military’s special operation has resumed in the nearby town of Slavyansk. The headquarters of the people’s self-defense is under snipers’ fire, according to Itar-Tass. There are reports of injuries among protesters.
Recall that Putin has made it very clear that all the Kremlin needs to green light an operation in Ukraine is a pretext of "self-defense" for the pro-Russian citizens currently there being attacked by the local military, something which if the tables were turned, would have been classified as a civil war by the impartial western media.
So what does the theater of operations look like should Russia finally get involved?
The Washington Post is publishing a new map that shows, using information from the Royal United Services Institute, recent troop movements in the region. The graphic illustrates how military exercises conducted by Russia have left a big build-up of troops on Ukraine's border. It also shows Ukraine's own military moves to its borders with Russia and Moldova's Russian-dominated enclave, Transnistria.
It may be a long weekend.