Ukrainian military and national police retook the major city of Kharkiv today, saying they had effectively put an end to the brief “Peoples’ Republic of Kharkiv” secessionist era.
There was relatively little violence to the offensive, but the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement condemning the use of troops against protesters, and also claiming that US mercenaries from Blackwater subsidiary Greystone had been involved in the offensive, disguised as members of the “Falcon” unit.
The loss of Kharkiv has secessionists in Donetsk fortifying their own positions in anticipation of a similar move. Donetsk has, by all accounts, had many more protesters than either Kharkiv or Luhansk, which itself remains out of government control.
In addition to having a much larger protesting contingent, Donetsk is also much closer to the Russian border, and Russia’s criticism of the attack on Kharkiv has many Western officials predicting Russia would invade to defend the protesters in Donetsk rather than let them be overrun.
The secessionist movements in the east are a deeply polarizing issue in Ukraine, with MP Petro Symonenko criticizing the harsh treatment of ethnic Russians by the far-right, saying it precipitated the crisis.
Symonenko went on to accuse the far-right of “fighting people who have a different point of view” rather than debating them. Predictably, Symonenko was then immediately attacked by MPs from the far-right Svoboda Party, sparking a brawl throughout the Kiev parliament.