Monday, December 15, 2014

Ukraine/Russia Recap Pt. 2

Continuing with Part 1, here are the next two events that have highlighted the situation between Ukraine and Russia for 2014.

3. Malaysia Airlines Flight 17

At 13:20 UTC on July 17, 2014, civilian flight MH17 crashed in the contested Donetsk province of Ukraine. Not long after the crash, a post on VKontakte (a Russian social media site) by Dontesk pro-Russian separatist leader Igor Girkin talks of shooting down a Ukrainian AN-26 cargo plane in the province. However, Ukraine forces intercepted audio that identified the wreckage as a civilian plane. The pro-Russian separatists had used a Russian surface-to-air missile system three days earlier to shoot down a AN-26, and initially believed to have done the same on July 17. The crash investigation is ongoing, but there is still debate on how the forces in Donetsk acquired the missile system. Some, including German intelligence, believe that separatists captured the system from a nearby Ukrainian military base. Others insist that Russia directly supplied the separatists with the missile system.

BUK surface-to-air missile system (courtesy Reuters)

4. Significant increase in Russian military activity

Throughout the year, Russia has maneuvered its forces near its Western border with Ukraine. However, just like the tide, those forces have been removed numerous times as well. In instances such as the Russian aid convoy controversy, Russian military forces have been standing by for immediate action. These buildups provide excellent protection for pro-Russian separatists when receiving supplies, whether it be military or humanitarian, from Russia.

However, Russia's military activity has not been limited to Ukraine. NATO aircraft have encountered Russian aircraft over 400 times this year; this does not include more recent sightings this month. Many NATO allies are worried that these encounters are becoming too numerous and could endanger civilian lives, as exemplified by a near-collision on December 13.

A Russian Su-34 intercepted by by Dutch F-16s (image from video)

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