Leaders: Ukraine conflict losing credibility

DURING the crisis in Ukraine, the western powers have allowed themselves to be party to a ­flimsy fiction.

Ukrainian soldiers arrive in the village of Bezimenne. Picture: AP
Ukrainian soldiers arrive in the village of Bezimenne. Picture: AP

The tacit agreement has been that those fighting the Ukrainian government in an escalating conflict have been local irregular militia who owe an allegiance to Russia. As such the conflict has been an ­internal Ukrainian one.

That this version of events was ever convincing is doubtful.

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After the detention of ten Russian paratroopers in Ukraine, seemingly part of a Russian military column that crossed the border on Monday heading into the troubled east of the country, it no longer has a shred of credibility.

Moscow yesterday admitted the men were soldiers, but claimed they had stumbled across the border by mistake, ­during “a patrol”.

This stretches credulity to breaking point.

The Kiev government agrees, with a military spokesman saying: “This wasn’t a mistake, but a special mission they were ­carrying out.”

The direct Russian involvement in what has become a brutal and bloody war in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions is now indisputable. And eyes turn to Nato with the question: what is the West going to do about it?

The strong words from Nato chiefs at the start of the crisis – that Nato would stand by its friends in Ukraine – are starting to look like empty promises.

There may be an understandable reason for this. Does anyone really want US or British troops stationed on the Ukraine-Russia border, risking the possibility of a direct military clash between Nato and Russian ground troops? Would this not be an extraordinary risk, full of potential for a direct clash between the powers of the East and West, with the consequent danger of escalation?

As such, the uncomfortable question needs to be asked: has Putin won in the Ukraine? Certainly there seems to be no obvious sign of Nato buttressing the Kiev government’s forces. So are we simply turning a blind eye to Putin’s antics?

The West can no longer hide behind the fig leaf of “it’s an internal conflict”. Truth told, it never was. We can no longer with any credibility give credence to that version of events.

There are difficult decisions to be made about how much the West is prepared to stand up to Putin, and how much it is prepared to let him get away with.

These decisions must be informed by a clear and unflinching assessment of the threat a rampant and unfettered Putin can pose to international security in a series of global flashpoints where Russian interests are 

Putin believes the West dare not confront him. Is he right?

Meanwhile, with a death toll so far of more than 2,000, in a conflict increasingly reminiscent of the most brutal internecine conflicts in the Balkan Wars of the early 1990s, Ukraine is at war with Russia.

Rotherham report calls for action

IT HAS become something of a familiar routine, usually in the wake of a depressing tale of the preventable death of someone heartbreakingly young.

A report is published about ­official failings which, upon reading, leaves a sense of outrage and anger that banal officialdom could have so conspired to allow such an outrage. Missed opportunities. Back-covering. Lack of leadership. A brushing under the carpet.

This week, the familiar scenario we have grown accustomed to in the wake of the death of a child has been repeated in the examination of events in Rotherham that saw the systematic sexual exploitation of more than 1,400 children.

The scale of the abuse is dizzying. One young person involved said that in this Yorkshire town it was part of growing up.

That is a tragedy. But it is also a call to action to examine why repeated reports into this abuse failed to result in the kind of concerted action that could have saved quite literally hundreds of children from exploitation, violence and degradation.

There are many contributory factors in this case – from the racial element, to relationships between police and social work departments, to the distressing lack of leadership – all of which need to be addressed, with ­lessons learned.

These young people were systematically failed, across years and years and years.

Of course, it is right that some of the men involved are now serving long jail terms for their crimes. Fitting too, that the council leader has now resigned. But more men were involved in this abuse, and more people in the ­authorities concerned were ­responsible for letting it happen.