KIEV, Ukraine – An apparent incursion of tanks and personnel carriers into southeastern Ukraine on Monday, one day before a high-stakes summit, demonstrated just how difficult it will be for Ukraine to re-establish control over its own territory.
Even as Russian-backed separatists lose ground on the battlefield, provocations from the Russian side of the two countries’ long border remain a constant threat.
Monday’s column of military vehicles – which Moscow denied sending – appeared near the Sea of Azov, well to the south of the rebel-held city of Donetsk. It came just days after Russia sent a convoy of humanitarian aid trucks – whose purpose, even now, is murky – into Ukrainian territory, provoking international condemnation. The Russian government said Monday it would send a second convoy despite the chaos the first had wrought.
The bold moves in recent days have complicated the already tense situation in Ukraine, which has been rent by a civil war that has left 2,000 dead in the last five months.
And it raises doubts that Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko will be able to make any headway toward a peace agreement today when they head to Minsk, Belarus, to attend a summit with other European leaders to discuss the conflict.
Poroshenko – a billionaire who has been in office only a few months – complicated matters Monday by announcing that he was dissolving the parliament in advance of elections later this fall in an attempt to get a more like-minded legislature.