Monday, July 28, 2014

Setbacks Complicate Putin's Ukraine Strategy

Pro-Russia Rebels Suffer Setbacks as West Readies Tougher Sanctions; Kremlin Prepares for Deeper International Isolation

By Gregory L. White in Moscow, Anton Troianovski in Berlin and Laurence Norman in Brussels, WSJ

Updated July 28, 2014 7:32 p.m. ET

Pro-Russia rebels in eastern Ukraine saw some of their worst battlefield setbacks in weeks Monday as the West agreed on tougher sanctions aimed at forcing Moscow to cut support for the militias—posing fresh challenges on two fronts for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Ukrainian forces were advancing from the north and south in an effort to cut off Donetsk, one of two remaining separatist strongholds, from fellow rebels in the other, Luhansk, as well as their supply lines to the Russian border, officials on both sides of the fighting said.

At the same time, the U.S. and Europe said they would adopt the harshest economic sanctions yet on the Kremlin this week. The European Union—Russia's largest trading partner—is expected to move as early as Tuesday to restrict transactions with Russia's state banks, as well as limit technology exports vital for the country's oil and weapons industries. The U.S. has vowed to follow suit.

In the past, every time such sectoral sanctions were threatened, the Kremlin managed to head them off with moves that appeared to signal de-escalation of the conflict. In reality, those moves "were only meant to buy time," a European official said. "Now, they are no longer trying to buy time."

(More here.)

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