Putin Directly Addressed Rebels In Ukraine For The First Time, And He Used A Frightening Word To Describe Them
RIA-Novosti, Alexei Nikolsky, Presidential Press Service/AP
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Putin's statement is notable because he has at multiple points in the months-long crisis denied any influence over the rebels. His words fueled Ukraine's charges that the pro-Russian separatists are essentially puppets whose strings are pulled by the Kremlin. Wikimedia Commons
Ukraine and the West have charged Russia with arming, equipping, and training the pro-Russian rebels. And on Thursday, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said Russian troops had come across the border to join the rebels in fighting.Putin and Russia have denied any control over the rebels, declining repeated calls from Western leaders to intervene with the rebels at points to defuse the ongoing crisis. But Ukraine's military said Putin's statement made clear that the separatists have been "led and controlled directly from the Kremlin," according to The Washington Post. This week, the rebels have opened a new front in the cities of Amvrosiivka and Starobeshevo. One fear is that Russia is attempting to create a land link between Russia and the strategic peninsula of Crimea, which Russia annexed with special forces troops in March. Poroshenko said Russian troops are leading a separatist counteroffensive in the east, bringing in tanks and firing artillery from inside Ukrainian territory.
In his statement, Putin went on to urge the militia of "New Russia" to allow for a humanitarian corridor for Ukrainian troops who have been surrounded to retreat.
"I call on the militia groups to open a humanitarian corridor for Ukrainian service members who have been surrounded, so as to avoid any needless loss of life, giving them the opportunity to leave the combat area unimpeded and reunite with their families, to return them to their mothers, wives and children, and to quickly provide medical assistance to those who were injured in the course of the military operation," Putin said.Meanwhile, the West hinted Thursday at stronger, more punishing sanctions. President Barack Obama said he had spoken to German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday and the two agreed that Russia was "responsible" for the escalating violence in eastern Ukraine.
"Russia is responsible for the violence in eastern Ukraine," Obama said in a statement from the White House. "This ongoing Russian incursion into Ukraine will only bring more costs and consequences for Russia."
Here's the situation in eastern Ukraine on Friday, according to Ukraine's military:
Ukraine National Security and Defense Council
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