“Independent researchers, using open sources and rigorous methodology, have demonstrated that Russian troops and Russian weapons have been an important part of the fight in Ukraine’s east,” said John E. Herbst, a former American ambassador to Ukraine and one of the authors of the report,Hiding in Plain Sight: Putin’s War in Ukraine, which is to be released Thursday by the Atlantic Council, a Washington-based research center.
While the most recent photograph analyzed in the Atlantic Council report was taken in February, Jens Stoltenberg, NATO’s secretary general, said in an interview in Washington on Wednesday that there was ample evidence that Russia still had forces in Ukraine and was sending arms to separatists there.
“Russia is present in eastern Ukraine,” Mr. Stoltenberg said. “This is something we have from our own intelligence. But in addition to our own intelligence, it is based on open sources.”
The report comes as European nations are preparing to vote next month on whether to ease or maintain economic sanctions on Russia because of its role in Ukraine.
“The way Russian propaganda works, it makes it seem you can’t possibly know the truth,” said Eliot Higgins, a British-based researcher who founded the investigative website Bellingcat.com and led the effort to analyze the imagery for the Atlantic Council report. “If you try to counter it by doing the same thing, you are just adding to the noise. But you can get to the truth by pointing to the open source data and what’s publicly available.”
The question is, will the EU, NATO, or US do a damned thing about it?
Mr. Stoltenberg declined to say how many Russian troops were in Ukraine or positioned near its border. But one Western official, who asked not to be identified because he was discussing intelligence reports, said Russia had moved about nine battalion tactical groups close to its border with Ukraine, and that as many as five additional battalions could be sent there in coming weeks. The number of troops in such units can vary, but a battalion could have about 1,000 troops, creating a potential force of well over 10,000 Russian troops in Ukraine by this summer.
It is unclear if Russia is preparing for a major offensive to help Ukrainian separatists seize more territory or if it is trying to put pressure on the Ukrainian government to make more constitutional concessions. Either way, the moves by Russia’s military are a violation of the peace agreement that was negotiated in Minsk, Belarus, in February, which called for the removal of foreign troops, the pulling back of heavy weapons and the disbanding of “illegal groups.”
Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. said in a speech on Wednesday that the conflict over Ukraine is “a test for the West,” and that “President Putin is wagering that he has greater staying power.”
He does. There's simply no appetite right now for anyone to intervene as long as there's not daily footage of carnage, and even then nobody's going to do much (ask the Palestinians how that works out.)