Europa og USA kan ha håpet at Moskva skulle ha distansert seg fra separatistene i Øst-Ukraina. De tok feil. Putin har sendt inn en hel bataljon av russere, tsjetsjenere og ossetere.
Kiev fikk merke en ny og hardere linje torsdag da et militærhelikopter ble skutt ned utenfor Slovjansk. 11 ble drept deriblant generalen som hadde ansvaret for opplæringen av et heimevern.
– Nå er det krig, sa Kiev. Det har de sagt før. Men nå matcher ordet realitetne. Ikke minst er det forsyninger av nye og tyngre og mer avanserte våpen som viser at Moskva trekker i trådene.
Den såkalte Vostok-bataljonen rykket inn i Donetsk og overtok kontrollen fra mer autonome separatister. Putin har ikke hatt full kontroll. Det har han nå. Styrkene som kom inn er mer profesjonelle, det kan bety mindre utskeielser overfor sivilbefolkningen, men større dødelighet for ukrainerne som vil ha et fritt Ukraina.
Det har lenge vært spekulasjoner om at tsjetsjenere deltar i Donetsk. Nå bekreftes ryktene. Det betyr en kraftig opptrapping fra Putins side. Han viser frem kortene.
The scores of troops who appeared in the centre of Donetsk shortly after noon today were from the Vostok [east] battalion, a battle-hardened rebel militia packed with fighters from Russia, including Chechens and Ossetians, as well as some Ukrainians. They brought armoured personnel carriers, an anti-aircraft gun and heavy weaponry including machineguns and grenade launchers.
A source close to the leadership of the Donetsk people’s republic said that it was “not a coup”. Like the men of the Vostok battalion, he insisted that the show of force was merely to crack down on a small number of looters who had robbed a cash and carry store in the city and hidden in the Soviet-era building.
However, the sudden emergence of the Vostok battalion in east Ukraine has strengthened suspicions that Moscow is trying to reassert its authority over feuding separatist fiefdoms in the region.
The Vostok battalion was involved in heavy combat outside the city last Friday and lost up to 100 men at the airport on Monday, when the Ukrainian military attacked them with warplanes and helicopter gunships. At a mortuary in Donetsk today, Alexander Borodai, a Russian nationalist and Moscow resident who was recently installed as the prime minister of the Donetsk people’s republic, said that at least 33 of the men killed in the battle at the airport were Russian citizens.
Tapet på 100 menn kan være overdrevet. Men uansett betyr innsatsen til fremmedsoldater at konflikten hardner.
Ramzan Kadyrov innrømmer nå at hans menn kjemper i Øst-Ukraina. Det er en dramatisk opptrapping.
Russia continues to deny deploying its own troops inside Ukraine and Ramzan Kadyrov, the Kremlin-backed leader of Chechnya, this week also denied sending Chechen fighters men to Donetsk. However, Mr Borodai admitted this week that fighters from Chechnya were helping the separatists in Ukraine.
In Donetsk a crowd of several hundred gathered to watch the Vostok Battalion take over. Larissa Ivanova, a doctor, said that a “purification” of the insurgency was necessary. “Not all insurgents are as honest or good as they should be,” she said.
A uniformed man with a map under his arm who gave his name as Roman, 35, watched as earth moving vehicles destroyed the barricades built with tyres, furniture and barbed wire outside the regional government building, which separatists occupied two months ago. He said that he was a local miner who now worked in military intelligence for the Vostok Battalion, and that the unit had formed “when Igor Strelkov came to Solvyansk”.
Man får en peiling på hva som er i vente når man leser om Strelkovs rulleblad.
Mr Strelkov, the pencil-moustached military commander of the pro-Russian insurgency who has a penchant for military reenactments is another Moscow resident. The Kiev authorities say he is a Russian intelligence officer. This week he reportedly ordered the execution of two people for looting under a 1941 field tribunal law introduced by Stalin.