One of the more troubling geopolitical stories in the past week has been the renewed flaring of fighting in Eastern Ukraine, which culminated yesterday with Kiev accusing Moscow of shooting at its military transport airplane while flying over the Black Sea, an allegation Moscow denied. To some, this has been a test by Putin to gauge US resolve in condemning what the western media is quick to dub Russian provocations; to others this is merely the sad continuation of events unleashed with the violent presidential coup in Ukraine two years ago.
Whatever the ultimate strategy, on Thursday Russian President Vladimir Putin preempted the first argument, and accused Kiev of provoking this week's flare up in fighting in eastern Ukraine, saying it was a ploy to win the support of the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump. Putin said that the Kiev government provoked the latest escalation of violence in east Ukraine as it needs money from its Western partners, which is easier to achieve when a nation pretends to be a victim and facing aggression.
“The Ukrainian leadership today needs money, and the best way to extort money is [to do that] from the European Union, from certain countries in Europe, from the United States and international institutions, presenting itself as a victim of aggression,” Putin said.
The Russian leader made the comments during a joint press conference with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban in Budapest.
Putin also noted that after supporting a particular candidate in the US presidential elections – hinting at Hillary Clinton – the Ukrainian government is now seeking to establish closer ties with the new administration under Donald Trump.
“The Ukrainian opposition has been more active amid clear [government] failures in the economic area and social policy,” Putin said. He noted that the ruling elite in Kiev is now seeking to silence the opposition and “mobilize” people around the government, which is easier to achieve “against the background of a renewal of some conflict.”
For now, the biggest question remains unanswered: what side of the Ukraine-Russian conflict will the new US State Department under Rex Tillerson side with, and will Trump slam the alleged Russian violence as his predecessor was so quick to do on virtually every single occasion.