Thursday, April 24, saw a steep escalation of tensions between Moscow and Kiev after the Ukrainian army killed up to five pro-Russian militiamen in an attack on three checkpoints outside the eastern town of Slavyansk. President Vladimir Putin threatened “consequences.” He added that the legitimacy of the May 25 elections was in serious question. Defense Minister Gen. Sergey Shoigu ordered the Russian army to start drills at Rostov on Don near the Ukraine border.
DEBKAfile’s military sources report that this order amounted to a state of alert, which required the troops to close their distance to the Ukraine border and take up prepared positions as bridgeheads for entering East Ukraine when the order is given.
Ukraine’s acting president demanded that Moscow pull its troops back from the border and stop “blackmail.”
In the past 48 hours, Russian officials have kept up an unprecedented stream of invective against the provisional government in Kiev and the Obama administration’s military, intelligence and financial intervention in Ukraine.
The opening shot was fired by Russia’s UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin, who Wednesday, April 23, blamed the US for the “pushing through the most radical scenario” in Kiev to save its $5 billion investment in regime change.