Sunday, June 01, 2014

In Ukraine War, Kremlin Leaves No Fingerprints

By SABRINA TAVERNISE, NYT
MAY 31, 2014

DONETSK, Ukraine — Not long ago, Alexander Borodai, a fast-talking Muscovite with a stylish goatee, worked as a consultant for an investment fund in Moscow. Today he is prime minister of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic, zipping around town in a black S.U.V. with tinted windows and armed guards and commanding what he says are hundreds of fighters from Russia.

Mr. Borodai is Russian, but says he has come to eastern Ukraine out of a surge of patriotism and a desire to help Russian speakers here protect their rights. As for the Kremlin, he says, there’s no connection.

“I’m an ordinary citizen of Russia, not a government worker,” said Mr. Borodai, 41, whose face crinkles easily into a smile. “A lot of people from Russia are coming to help these people. I am one of them.”

The Cold War-style standoff over Ukraine may have subsided for now. President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia has drawn his troops back from the border and has promised to work with Ukraine’s new government. But the shifting reality here in eastern Ukraine suggests the crisis has simply entered a new phase. In contrast to Crimea, which was seized by Russian troops in unmarked uniforms this spring, eastern Ukraine is evolving into a subtle game in which Russian freelancers shape events and the Kremlin plausibly denies involvement.

(More here.)

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