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March 02, 2014

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Crimea may be a special case: autonomous already, with a majority Russian population, long restless inside Ukraine.

If the crisis was to broaden, I'd look to Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts in the extreme east of the country. Heavily industrialized, with overwhelmingly Russophone populations (and ethnic Russians amounting to something like two-fifths of the total), and with notable Russophile (or at least Soviet-nostalgic political tendencies), they'd be the next plausible targets. Perhaps also Kharkiv just to the north, although there are fewer Russians there.

Much of this depends on whether or not the oligarchs in eastern Ukraine want to secede from Kiev's rule and align with Russia. Their feelings of Ukrainian national sentiment aside, I suspect that they would like more to be big fishes in a relatively small Ukraine than small players in a Russian periphery. (Or dominant players in an east Ukrainian state?)

All this theorizing is, of course, without any knowledge of what's going on right now. I'd wait a day, at least.

I agree.

Invading eastern Ukraine without a suitable pretext is a terrible idea. The Ukrainian army is in poor condition, but it is an army. Moreover, a sudden invasion will prompt civilian resistance, and that would be a disaster. The whole thing could slide into internecine warfare and mass refugee movements, for which Moscow would be (correctly) blamed.

Putin would be an idiot to try to drive on Kiev and restore Yanukovich. President Sarkozy dissuaded him from deposing the Georgian government apparently by reminding him that he might get stuck in a costly occupation from which any withdrawal would be classed as a defeat. Since an imposed Ukrainian puppet government would not be able to stand on its own feet --- after all, it wasn't able to stand on its own feet --- Russia would wind up owning the resulting unrest.

So the only sensible way to cleave off eastern Ukraine would be a situation in which the provincial governments there secede and slide into unrest before Russian troops cross the border.

That is what to watch, then.

Sorry, we had to get away from it all. There's nothing we can do and Lyudmila's sister in Ukraine is a nurse and must report for duty as part of the call up. Ditto with her husband who is 35 and must report to the army. Whether the eastern oblasts have their conscripts report in will be equally as telling.

Lugansk Oblast (rather than city) has voted for federalism referendum and the right to call on the Russians.

There are now supposedly tanks on the north eastern border of Ukraine. The Ukrainian armor has supposedly reached Mykolayiv 150 km from Crimea. There are some unbelievable rumors too.

Really hard not to join the 101st chairborn. sigh.

Russian market down 10% yesterday. Unlike Georgia, the markets seem a bit more nervous about this crisis. Still nothing to make the Kremlin care.

I do not think this will spread.

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