East Ukraine to Putin: We're Ignoring You
Pro-Russia separatists say they'll go ahead with planned referendum on Sunday
By Rob Quinn, Newser Staff
Posted May 8, 2014 4:41 AM CDT
Updated May 8, 2014 7:03 AM CDT
A pro-Russian militant sits atop an armored personal carrier with a Donetsk republic flag rolling through a street in Slovyansk, Ukraine.   (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

(Newser) – Vladimir Putin today presided over military exercises that simulated what the AP calls a "massive retaliatory nuclear strike in response to an enemy attack," further stoking tensions simmering in Ukraine. Putin said the drills had been planned since November, and the move comes a day after he said he had pulled Russian troops back from the Ukraine border—though US and NATO intel indicates nothing to confirm that actually happened (more on that below). And though the BBC reports that Putin yesterday struck a seemingly softer tone, calling on pro-Russia separatists to delay a referendum on autonomy set for Sunday, that request fell on deaf ears. Separatist leaders in Donetsk announced today that they're going ahead with the referendum anyway. "They feel that this is the people's choice—that they respect Mr. Putin, but this path of a referendum will lead to the peace that Mr. Putin wants," reports NPR's correspondent in the city. Elsewhere:

  • Confusion and disbelief continues among rebels over Putin's call for a delay, the Guardian finds. One militia member in Slovyansk described Putin as a coward. "Instead of helping Russian people here, he is betraying us," he says. "He will pay for this with a revolution in Red Square. Russian people will not stand by and watch this happen."

  • NATO, the Pentagon, and the White House say they've seen no sign of Putin pulling back troops, reports Reuters. "We would certainly welcome a meaningful and transparent withdrawal," a White House spokesman says. "To date, there has been no evidence that such a withdrawal has taken place."
  • Western governments are still pretty skeptical about Putin's intentions, especially considering what happened in Crimea, the New York Times reports. Analysts suspect Putin wants to avoid chaos—and an expensive, bloody invasion—while still keeping eastern Ukraine in Moscow's orbit. "He really promised nothing," a political commentator in Moscow says. "He demonstrated that he controls the level of tension in Ukraine. He can return the situation to the high levels of violence at any moment. He did not refuse the referendum, but only proposed delaying it."

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Showing 3 of 28 comments
????
May 8, 2014 2:33 PM CDT
It is wise to wait and reach a wider consensus but I also understand how people must feel about 'athorities' who use military against them. Western puppets in Kiev will hang high sooner or later. Biggest Russian mistake was to let this nazi crap in Ukraine ferment for so long. Western separatists in Lviv should have been dealt with a long time ago.
TheVEG
May 8, 2014 2:13 PM CDT
LOL!!! Putin's funny. But still...these drills were planned back in November when the protests in Ukraine started? How coincidental. And as "retaliatory" against a country with no nukes that only has a small military no less. What a clown Putin's turning out to be. Then he claims he has no control over Putin's Pigs in Ukraine...yeah right. Putin needs to go back to playing his checkers. He counted on America's "do nothing" Congress to keep Obama and America on the sidelines...which would in essence keep the EU on the sidelines. He didn't calculate Obama using Executive Powers for sanctions that are taking a toll. Talk about biting off more than you can chew. Now it looks like the "puppet master" just might become the puppet. And since people are somehow viewing this as an Obama vs. Putin thing...would be best that Putin back out gracefully instead of going down in history as the failure who had his ass handed to him by "the black guy". But I dunno, it might be too late for that.
kawahchan
May 8, 2014 12:16 PM CDT
(R) 2016 Gov. RICK PERRY Report: How and now the US, EU and the Kiev Government can see a clear picture how Mr. Russian President Putin to close this Eastern Ukraine's pro-Russia love-drama, the conclusion is that the unrecognized "People Republic of Donetsk" is just trying to be under the hallucination that the other (Russia's Putin's) party is willing. The master-mind's leaders of "People Republic of Donetsk" and the militants will face a guilt in being a traitor to betray one's sovereign country Ukraine's sedition and treason; that's Kiev government will reclaim the Ukraine's Sovereignty from Russia after May 25th Ukrainian Presidential Election. Mr. Russian President Putin knows pretty good that is NO political foothold in pro-EU Ukraine' soil for the mother-tongue is speaking Ukrainian, 2nd language is speaking Russian, and the third language is speaking English. Only Mr. Russian President Putin to offer a Naturalization to the mainland Russia to those pro-Russia Ukrainians who are speaking Russian mother-tongue.