Last Thursday the Ukrainian government, echoed by NATO spokesmen, declared that the the Russian military is now operating within Ukraine's borders. Well, maybe it is and maybe it isn't; what do you know? They said the same thing before, most recently on August 13, and then on August 17, each time with either no evidence or fake evidence. But let's give them the benefit of the doubt.
You be the judge. I put together this helpful list of top ten telltale signs that will allow you to determine whether indeed Russia invaded Ukraine last Thursday, or whether Thursday's announcement is yet another confabulation. (Credit to Roman Kretsul).
Because if Russia invaded on Thursday morning, this is what the situation on the ground would look like by Saturday afternoon.
1. Ukrainian artillery fell silent almost immediately. They are no longer shelling residential districts of Donetsk and Lugansk. This is because their locations had been pinpointed prior to the operation, and by Thursday afternoon they were completely wiped out using air attacks, artillery and ground-based rocket fire, as the first order of business. Local residents are overjoyed that their horrible ordeal is finally at an end.
2. The look of military activity on the ground in Donetsk and Lugansk has changed dramatically. Whereas before it involved small groups of resistance fighters, the Russians operate in battalions of 400 men and dozens of armored vehicles, followed by convoys of support vehicles (tanker trucks, communications, field kitchens, field hospitals and so on). The flow of vehicles in and out is non-stop, plainly visible on air reconnaissance and satellite photos. Add to that the relentless radio chatter, all in Russian, which anyone who wants to can intercept, and the operation becomes impossible to hide.
3. The Ukrainian military has promptly vanished. Soldiers and officers alike have taken off their uniforms, abandoned their weapons, and are doing their best to blend in with the locals. Nobody thought the odds of the Ukrainian army against the Russians were any good. Ukraine's only military victory against Russia was at the battle of Konotop in 1659, but at the time Ukraine was allied with the mighty Khanate of Crimea, and, you may have noticed, Crimea is not on Ukraine's side this time around.
4. There are Russian checkpoints everywhere. Local civilians are allowed through, but anyone associated with a government, foreign or domestic, is detained for questioning. A filtration system has been set up to return demobilized Ukrainian army draftees to their native regions, while the volunteers and the officers are shunted to pretrial detention centers, to determine whether they had ordered war crimes to be committed.
5. Most of Ukraine's border crossings are by now under Russian control. Some have been reinforced with air defense and artillery systems and tank battalions, to dissuade NATO forces from attempting to stage an invasion. Civilians and humanitarian goods are allowed through. Businessmen are allowed through once they fill out the required forms (which are in Russian).
6. Russia has imposed a no-fly zone over all of Ukraine. All civilian flights have been cancelled. There is quite a crowd of US State Department staffers, CIA and Mossad agents, and Western NGO people stuck at Borispol airport in Kiev. Some are nervously calling everyone they know on their satellite phones. Western politicians are demanding that they be evacuated immediately, but Russian authorities want to hold onto them until their possible complicity in war crimes has been determined.
7. The usual Ukrainian talking heads, such as president Poroshenko, PM Yatsenyuk and others, are no longer available to be interviewed by Western media. Nobody quite knows where they are. There are rumors that they have already fled the country. Crowds have stormed their abandoned residences, and were amazed to discover that they were all outfitted with solid gold toilets. Nor are the Ukrainian oligarchs anywhere to be found, except for the warlord Igor Kolomoisky, who was found in his residence, abandoned by his henchmen, dead from a heart attack. (Contributed by the Saker.)
8. Some of the over 800,000 Ukrainian refugees are starting to stream back in from Russia. They were living in tent cities, many of them in the nearby Rostov region, but with the winter coming they are eager to get back home, now that the shelling is over. Along with them, construction crews, cement trucks and flatbeds stacked with pipe, cable and rebar are streaming in, to repair the damage from the shelling.
9. There is all sorts of intense diplomatic and military activity around the world, especially in Europe and the US. Military forces are on highest alert, diplomats are jetting around and holding conferences. President Obama just held a press conference to announce that “We don't have a strategy on Ukraine yet.” His military advisers tell him that his usual strategy of “bomb a little and see what happens” is not likely to be helpful in this instance.
10. Kiev has surrendered. There are Russian tanks on the Maidan Square. Russian infantry is mopping up the remains of Ukraine's National Guard. A curfew has been announced. The operation to take Kiev resembled “Shock and Awe” in Baghdad: a few loud bangs and then a whimper.
Armed with this list, you too should be able to determine whether or not Russia has invaded Ukraine last Thursday.