DONETSK, Ukraine, March 24 (Reuters) – Even as a new alarm
sounds about it massing troops on the Ukrainian border, Russia
may have missed its chance to exploit unrest in the
Russian-speaking east to seize Ukraine’s industrial heartland in
the way it took Crimea.
A week after violence involving pro-Moscow separatists left
three people dead in border cities, the outlines of a consensus
have emerged between the new leaders in Kiev and the eastern
business oligarchs allied to ousted president Viktor Yanukovich.
KIEV/DONETSK (Reuters) – Germany’s foreign minister pledged to help the new Ukrainian government on Saturday and heard an appeal from the prime minister in Kiev that it will need energy from the European Union to secure it against Russia cutting supplies.
Frank-Walter Steinmeier praised premier Arseny Yatseniuk for statements aimed at reassuring Russian-speakers in the east of the country. Later, after visiting eastern business leaders, the German minister said he believed they backed Ukrainian unity and would oppose secession of the kind seen last week in Crimea.
NEAR ANDRIIVKA, Ukraine (Reuters) – Ukrainian paratroopers with armored vehicles were digging in on Thursday near the Russian border as the military demonstrated its presence in the east following Kiev’s loss of Crimea to Moscow’s forces.
The soldiers, camped in tents with some two dozen trucks and BMD-1 combat vehicles, would not discuss their mission. They set up sandbags, strung barbed wire and carried out infantry drills in small groups next to a small quarry in rolling grain country, 30 km (20 miles) from the Russian border in Donetsk region.
DONETSK, Ukraine (Reuters) – The man given the job of preventing Ukraine’s industrial heartland following Crimea into the arms of Russia sounds a little hoarse and confesses to lacking sleep but reckons things are not as bad as last week.
But steel baron Serhiy Taruta, since March 2 governor of his native Donetsk region, warned Western powers on Wednesday that without urgent financial aid the Russian-speaking population of the wider Donbass coal mining area could vent frustrations with Ukraine’s corrupt and failing economy by heeding Kremlin-funded militants who have called for Moscow to step in and take charge.
UKRAINIAN-RUSSIAN FRONTIER (Reuters) – Ukraine has strengthened frontier defenses with Russia following Moscow’s seizure of Crimea but there is no sign of a major troop build-up in a region where some say they would welcome a Russian takeover.
On a day when a Ukrainian soldier became the first fatal casualty in the confrontation on the Black Sea peninsula, at the southernmost crossing between the two countries, where Ukraine dug anti-tank ditches this week, Kiev’s frontier guards were keen to play down the Russian threat and hope for the best.