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Escalation in Ukraine Violence Targets U.S.-Russia Relations

Feb. 1, 2017 (EIRNS)—The Donbass region of southeast Ukraine has seen a dramatic escalation in the level of violence since Jan. 28, with as many as eight Ukrainian troops reported killed and 26 wounded, with smaller numbers of casualties among militia members of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic and among civilians. The fighting is centered in government-held Avdeyevka, just outside the suburbs of Donetsk city. The regime in Kiev, not surprisingly, accuses "Russian occupation forces" of "massive attacks" across the line of contact between the two sides, but the timing of the escalation, coming as it did so soon after U.S. President Trump’s moves to improve U.S.-Russian relations, is suspicious, to say the least.

Alexander Zakharchenko, the leader of the D.P.R., charged outright that Ukrainian President Poroshenko ordered the attacks on Avdeyevka and the nearby village of Yasinovataya, when he realized the failure of his policy in the global arena.

"Ukraine started hostilities only because Russia and the United States started to search for common ground. And, having understood that Kiev may get nothing, Poroshenko ordered [the military] to launch an offensive on the Donetsk People’s Republic,"

he said, reported TASS. "The fighting is intense. Ukraine suffers great loss. But we will not let the enemy break through," he said.

Even a story in RFE/RL, by one Christopher Miller, who three years ago was a pro-Maidan editor at the Kyiv Post, acknowledges that the Kiev regime’s motivations for escalating the violence stem from its fears of losing U.S. support.

"Frustrated by the stalemate in this 33-month war of attrition, concerned that Western support is waning, and sensing that U.S. President Donald Trump could cut Kiev out of any peace negotiations as he tries to improve fraught relations with Moscow, Ukrainian forces anxious to show their newfound strength have gone on what many here are calling a ‘creeping offensive,’"

Miller writes.

Poroshenko also made a great show of being in Berlin when the fighting escalated on Monday and then "cutting short" his visit in order to return home to handle the crisis, although the official program of the journey was over by that time, reports Tass. He was in Berlin long enough, however, to convey his message that the sanctions must be maintained against Russia until Russia complies with the Minsk agreement on the settlement of the conflict.

"In case they aren’t implemented, we support maintaining and, if necessary, increasing the sanctions pressure on Russia," Poroshenko said, prior to meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Merkel, Reuters notes, has repeatedly said that sanctions against Russia can only be lifted once the Minsk agreement has been fully implemented. However, as many observers in both Russia and Europe have pointed out over the past year, it is Kiev which has failed to meet its commitments under the Minsk agreement, particularly the failure of the regime to adopt the electoral law the agreement calls for.