NATO to step up actions after slaughter of Ukrainians
The United States and its allies are preparing this week to discuss plans to significantly increase the readiness of NATO response forces amid escalating tensions in Ukraine and Russia's involvement in the area, the White House said yesterday.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest, speaking to reporters ahead of NATO's summit in Wales tomorrow and Friday, said the meetings are expected to encompass potential training, exercises and other discussions regarding infrastructure and other needsin eastern Europe.
President Putin has made it abundantly deal that any talks of a truce or of an overall agreement will be exclusively on his terms, and his alone.
Rebel victories in Ukraine have strengthened his hands. yesterday there were reports of Ukrainian solders who were an easy target as they launched a desperate run to safety. Pounded by a gauntlet of rocket shells, blown up in their vehicles, they died by the dozens.
In fields around the eastern Ukrainian village of Novokaterynivka, more than thirty army vehicles lay charred and pulverized into twisted piles of metal - the result of a devastating weekend ambush by separatist forces. The rout marked a major intensification in the separatists' offensive in eastern Ukraine - one that the government in Kiev, NATO and the United States say has been sustained by Russia's direct military support.
Moscow's aggressive stance toward Ukraine has come in both words and deeds of late, fueled by attacks like those in Novokaterynivka as well as a leaked report that EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said Vladimir Putin told him that Russia could take over Kiev "in two weeks" if it wished. The separatists, after having a month of setbacks in which government troops regained territory, have been inordinately successful in the last 10 days just as columns of Russian tanks and armoured vehicles have been seen crossing the border. President Barack Obama and other NATO leaders will be attending a summit in Wales on Thursday to create a rapid-response military team to counter the Russian threat.
Yuri Ushakov, Putin's foreign policy adviser, told reporters that the Russian leader's statement on Kiev was "taken out of context and carried a completely different meaning."
Yet on the ground, the results of much deadlier weapons of war could not be denied.
The smashed tanks, APCs and trucks were part of a massive column fleeing Saturday night after being encircled in the town of Ilovaisk, which the government was compelled to concede after weeks of bitter battles. Judging by how close together the stricken vehicles were, the incoming fire was precise and extremely intense.
"They were going to surrender and they began to bomb them," said Novokaterynivka resident Anatoly Tyrn.
Ukrainian army personnel have been allowed to travel to Novokaterynivka and surrounding rebel-held areas to retrieve their soldiers' bodies, a few of which still lie in the open.
Villagers and the Russian-backed rebels say the number of Ukrainian military dead was huge, although the government has maintained a tight lid on the precise figure.
He said he believed more than a hundred had died. Rebels gave estimates, all ranging into the dozens.