Well, that didn't last long. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko yesterday announced plans for a ceasefire with the pro-Russian militants who control parts of eastern Ukraine. Fighting has already resumed, and NATO claims that Russia is again building up troops along the Ukrainian border. Vice President Joe Biden today weighed in on the situation.
Biden warned today that the U.S. will "impose further costs on Russia" if the country doesn't rein in the separatists. Secretary of State John Kerry issued a similar threat earlier this week when insurgents shot down a Ukrainian military plane, killing all 49 people on board. The U.S. has been expanding its economic sanctions against Russia since mid-March.
Reuters reports on today's action:
Both Ukrainian government and rebel accounts of the fighting suggested a major battle involving armoured vehicles including tanks. One military source said 4,000 separatists were involved, while rebels sources in Donetsk said Ukrainian infantry supported by 20 tanks and many other armoured vehicles were storming the village of Yampil, about 12 kilometres east of Krasny Liman.
A top rebel commander, Igor Strelkov, reported "heavy losses" in equipment and arms among the separatists, faced with a huge superiority in heavy armour on the government side at Yampil.
"We beat off the first attack and destroyed one tank. But it is difficult to take on 20 tanks. The battle is going on. Our people are holding but we can't rule out that they [government forces] will break through," Strelkov, who is also known as Girkin, said in a video statement. He urged Moscow to "take some measures."
On top of this setback to Poroshenko's peace plan, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen asserts that Russia is only fanning the flames:
I can confirm that we now see a new Russian military buildup — at least a few thousand more Russian troops deployed to the Ukrainian border — and we see troop maneuvers in the neighborhood of Ukraine. … If they're deployed to seal the border and stop the flow of weapons and fighters that would be a positive step. But that's not what we're seeing.
Likewise, last week the Ukrainian government said that several tanks had crossed the border from Russia through a separatist-held checkpoint, a claim that NATO backed up with satellite images. There is evidence that some of the fighters for the so-called people's republics of Donetsk and Luhansk are actually hired mercenaries from Chechnya and Ingushetia.