17:10 Aug. 7, 2016
Trump is not the only one who denies the obvious; Obama also continues to insist that the way to end the conflicts is to work with Russia
Donald Trump's assertion that Russia "is not going to go into Ukraine" reminded us that very little reporting has been done in recent months about the state of the conflict in the eastern provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk, which were first invaded by Russian forces in early 2014. That's unfortunate, because while the West's attention has been otherwise occupied this summer, Russia and its proxies have steadily escalated the fighting.
According to the United Nations, 20 civilians were killed and 122 injured in June and July, more than double the average monthly toll of the previous nine months. The Ukrainian army, for its part, reported at least 13 soldiers killed in July. Most of the deaths came in shelling attacks by heavy weapons, including artillery and Grad rockets, that were expressly prohibited by the two peace agreements Russia and Ukraine made. Apart from brief periods, the Russian side has never fully observed the cease-fire, according to reports by international monitors.
Meanwhile, military supplies continue to pour across Ukraine's eastern border, parts of which Russia exclusively controls. According to statements by Ukrainian officials, at least 19 trains carrying military hardware crossed the border in July. On Aug. 2, authorities reported that 30 tanks, 11 armored vehicles and six Grad rocket systems had been shipped in during the previous week. This despite repeated Russian commitments to pull all such weapons back from the front lines and place them under monitoring.
It's not clear how many Russian personnel are now operating inside Ukraine; in the past, estimates by NATO and other outside observers have ranged from several thousand to 10,000. Veteran analyst Paul Goble of the Jamestown Foundation reported in a recent blog post that "curators" dispatched by Vladimir Putin's regime "are attached to military units, political organizations, newspapers and radio stations, as well as other distinct institutions." They transmit orders from Moscow and control all government as well as military operations.