Putin has given a press conference in Moscow saying that Russia has no intentions to wage war against Ukraine and has no desire to annex territory—but left himself an enormous loophole by claiming that ousted president Viktor Yanukovych was still the head of state, that he had asked Russia for help, and that Ukraine's upcoming elections will be illegitimate.
Putin said enough to mollify the headlines ("Putin Says No War," "No Plans to Annex Territory") but gave himself enough wiggle room to do whatever he likes in the name of helping a fellow head of state.
And, as we saw yesterday with Russian embassies tweeting that Putin had not even deployed troops, Russian officials have no trouble saying one thing and doing another.
Guardian reporter Alec Luhn breaks down five falsehoods Putin told during the press conference, including a strange assertion that protesters in Kiev were killed by their own leaders, not police snipers.
The New York Times has an article on Russian "protest tourists"—some of whom appear to be getting paid—traveling through Ukraine with flags and enthusiasm, presenting a staged spectacle of people welcoming the invasion with open arms for the world's news photographers. They're little, mobile Potemkin villages.
And the New Republic is publishing a series of articles by (mostly) Russian dissidents and independent journalists on what's been happening in Ukraine. There is one by Maria Alyokhina of Pussy Riot:
The principle “divide and rule,” which has been preventively implemented in Russia, cannot be justified, just as the stance of people who are actively or passively supporting this principle cannot be justified. Last night, frantic calls were made to those who receive salaries from the state, such as teachers, to order them to take to the streets in a rally supporting the sending of troops. They were paid to go. They went to rally for war. In the afternoon we saw them in the streets and on the squares. And we weren't even surprised, just like we weren't surprised at arrests on Red Square of people who were singing the national anthem.
And Tikhon Dzyadko, deputy editor of "Russia's last independent television station," writes that Putin doesn't seem to know what he wants:
A Russian invasion of Ukraine—if it ends up happening—will mean catastrophe, most of all for Russia. Paradoxically, it will only help Ukraine: Questions about the legitimacy of the new government in Kiev will fall away; the IMF and the West will be tripping over themselves to help Ukraine financially; this, in turn, will prop up the government in Kiev, which is currently broke; and, finally, the Ukrainian people will be united in their fight against an occupier—and isn’t this exactly the kind of unity you need after a revolution? Russia, on the other hand, will be left with international isolation and yet another neighboring territory recognized by no one. In 2008, it was Abkhazia and South Ossetia; now, it is the Crimea. But in acquiring the Crimea, Russia will lose Ukraine, its biggest partner for transporting gas to Europe.
It seems that the invasion of Ukraine is being done merely to remind the world about Russia and that it is a powerful regional player. But this is a game without an endgame.
He's right about at least one thing—Kerry has shown up in Kiev with $1 billion of guaranteed loans and technical assistance. Although, as one anonymous American official remarked:
“The Russians are major holders of Ukrainian debt,” the senior American official acknowledged. “So in any scenario in which Ukraine is getting financial assistance some of the money very likely is going to end up in the hands of Russian of institutions. I think there is probably no way of avoiding that. “