Lugansk Governor: ‘There are already Russian soldiers in the Donbas’

There are indeed Russian troops active in the Ukrainian Donbas region. So says Ukrainian Governor Serhiy Haidai of Lugansk, one of the two provinces in the Donbas. Parts of those provinces have been recognized as independent people‘s republics by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Governor Haidai shows photos of damaged buildings in his area, which he believes have been destroyed by Russian soldiers or separatists. โ€œThere are a lot of shelling now. There is a shooting at residential areas. And there is not like before with light guns and mortars, but with artillery and missile installations.โ€

The leader of Russian separatists in Donetsk, Denis Pushilin, stressed earlier today that there are no Russian soldiers in the two Eastern Ukrainian provinces. Haidai strongly contradicts that to Nieuwsuur and talks about โ€œliesโ€.

โ€œWest, help usโ€

The fear in the area is that a large-scale military raid will soon follow, according to US intelligence agencies even within 48 hours. In addition to military, there is also digital attack. Earlier today, all government sites were out of the air due to a cyberattack, nor is there any telephone traffic possible in Lugansk.

Residents of the two provinces are concerned. โ€œNo one expected Putin’s love for our people to be such a boom for that same peopleโ€:

Governor Haidai tells Nieuwsuur that he would like European countries such as the Netherlands to help restore communication, for example via satellite phones. He also hopes that Western countries want to help evacuate children. In addition, Haidai asks for weapons.

‘Peace in Europe at risk’

It is not only in Ukraine that people are concerned. In NATO country Lithuania, too, they are looking at developments with suspicion. โ€œPeace in Europe over the past thirty years is in jeopardy,โ€ says Mantas Adomenas, Lithuania‘s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs against Nieuwsuur.

His country, which borders a piece of Russia, is a member of NATO. At the moment, NATO troops are already in place. He hopes NATO allies will send more troops to the Baltic states. According to him, that is not a provocation to Russia, but a necessity. Putin does come up with a reason if he wants to invade, says Adomenas, whether NATO is expanding the force or not.

He firmly believes that Putin is testing NATO’s togetherness and that the Western alliance must now show that they are a front together. โ€œWe need to be credible, not just with sanctions. We have to be more than a kind of emergency on an already bleeding wound.โ€

According to Andrey Kortunov, they do not have to fear a raid in Lithuania. Kortunov is director of the Russian International Affairs Council, a think tank affiliated to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He even thinks that Russia will not steam up further within Ukraine. โ€œThe country is too big to occupy and the resistance is too great,โ€ is his conviction.

Although he was also surprised that Putin recognized the two republics in the Donbas. โ€œI thought this decision would not be made so quickly. I thought he would use this option as a trump card, to throw it on the table at the very last minute when all the other options are already exhausted.โ€

EU heads of government will round the table tomorrow in Brussels due to the Ukraine crisis. Among other things, they will talk about (extra) sanctions.

We asked former Commander of Land Forces Mart de Kruif what military options Putin has: