After weeks of promising to stand up to pro-Russian militants in the eastern part of the country, the Ukrainian government has begun what it’s calling an “anti-terrorist operation” that could very well lead to more Russian intervention or even civil war. But acting president Oleksandr Turchynov is downplaying that part.
“It will be carried out in stages, and responsibly and in a balanced manner. The goal is the defense of citizens of Ukraine,” he said in a statement. “Russian special forces and terrorists, there are hundreds of thousands of innocent Ukrainian people deceived by Russian propaganda, and that is why we will take any needed anti-terrorist actions prudently and responsibly.”
The AP reports “heavy gunfire at an airport in eastern Ukraine after the government sent in army troops to retake control from pro-Russian militiamen.”
The Kremlin-run network RT said between four and 11 people were killed and at least two injured as the airfield was seized, although the reports have not been confirmed by services unconnected to the Russian government. (Sample RT breaking news banner: “KIEV RESPORTED TO FORCE AGAINST PROTESTERS, IGNORING DEMANDS OF CITIZENS.”)
Videos of fighter jets are overhead are popping up on YouTube:
The New York Times has some early analysis:
The movements suggested that Kiev had overcome fears that an overly assertive Ukrainian military response could quickly lead to heavy civilian casualties and play into Moscow’s narrative that Russian-speakers are in need of protection.
But Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said he hopes Ukrainian leaders have “enough brains” not to take this further, RT reports. “Ukraine is on the brink of civil war and it is scary,” he said.