The US has reportedly started calling forces in eastern Ukraine ‘combined Russian-separatist’ forces. This, says Washington, is based on good evidence.
The move could bring the US and other western governments closer to Kiev’s position, in calling what is going on an invasion, Russia making war on Ukraine, and accept the consequences that may follow.
Russia’s government have repeatedly denied they are sending troops and weapons to the separatists. Many governments do not believe them.
It may also make it more likely that weapons might be supplied to Ukrainian forces.
It might make it harder for Russia, now identified explicitly as the aggressor, to divide EU countries on the issue of sanctions.
Kiev would likely applaud this, as would other former soviet dominated European countries that have been alarmed by Russia’s armed annexation of Crimea and backing for militants in eastern Ukraine.
US General Philip Breedlove, who is NATO’s top commander, says that Russia has taken much more of the command of the militant units it has been backing in eastern Ukraine. That and the Russian weapons systems flowing into eastern Ukraine could be signs of preparations for a new offensive against Ukraine, he added.
According to Russian polls over 80% of Russians support President Putin. But some Russians too, it’s difficult to know how many, don’t believe their leaders’ denials that Russian soldiers are being sent to fight and die in Ukraine.