Noah Sneider provides a glimpse:
There was hope that the tragedy of MH17 would force Russia, Ukraine, and the rebels to wake up from their post-Soviet fever dream. But following the crash, the parallel realities that exist across eastern Ukraine only became sharper. Prospects for peace have all but disappeared. Among rebels, blaming the Ukrainian forces for downing MH17 is an article of faith. Most locals (fed by the Russian media) agree, seeing it as a plot concocted in Kiev to discredit the separatist movement. And the Ukrainian forces, meanwhile, have pressed their offensive further, both at Saur-Mogila and around the cities of Donetsk and Luhansk.
After the recent downing of two Ukrainian fighter jets, Max Fisher sees “no reason to believe that the rebels have become any more cautious or restrained about shooting down airplanes since the MH17 disaster”:
Crucially, the planes were flying at 17,000 feet, according to the Ukrainian government — meaning that shooting them down would, as with MH17, require a sophisticated and highly complicated surface-to-air missile system. That is just way too high to be shot down by amateur fighters wielding shoulder-fired missiles. Ukraine’s rebels have admitted to possessing such military hardware, the Buk (also known as SA-11) surface-to-air system.
The point is that these two most recent jets were shot down by people who had the professional military training necessary to operate complex, vehicle-based missile systems.
Meanwhile, Olga Kashin profiles separatist leader Igor Strelkov:
Through all the years of Putin’s rule, Russian politics had become a dull play, with fictitious political parties and a Parliament in Putin’s pocket. Political journalists were forced to write day after day about meaningless initiatives and empty statements. Everything changed when the Ukrainian crisis began: For the first time in many years, there was an epic drama involving imperial ambitions, business interests, history, geopolitics, and warfare. Reenactor Igor Strelkov became the main hero of this drama. He has, perhaps, more fans in Russia now than any politician of the older generation, of whom the Russian television viewer has long grown weary. The Russian journalist Andrei Arkhangelsky conducted a special study of Russian talk radio stations and has come to the conclusion that Strelkov’s name is mentioned even more frequently than Putin’s. Arkhangelsky even speaks of a “Strelkov generation” that has come to replace the “Putin generation”—but this is an exaggeration. Putin needed Strelkov in order to rattle the new Ukrainian authorities. Thanks to him, part of the Ukrainian territory has remained volatile, and this has allowed Putin to claim that Kiev is not in control, that Ukraine’s revolution is a dead end.
But now that Strelkov is suspected of international terrorism, Putin will not need him much longer. Probably in the coming days, Vladimir Putin will do everything possible to get rid of an ally who has become a deadly danger, whose war games now force Putin to make midnight phone calls to Western leaders and to publically justify himself in a way unheard of in Putin’s Russia.
Anna Nemtsova also covers Strelkov:
An article published by Strelkov’s adviser, Igor Druzd, on Wednesday laid out the case that Putin, today, is facing the same choice that ousted Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovych faced a few months ago: either send in the army and win control over Novorossia territories in eastern Ukraine—or lose his presidency. “I hope that the Ukrainian tragedy will neither become the tragedy of Russia nor the personal tragedy of Putin,” wrote Strelkov’s adviser.
Ukrainian authorities insist that, in fact, Russian heavy weapons already are deployed and Russian personnel already are fighting in Donbass, as eastern Ukraine is known. The Ukrainian authorities say it was the Kremlin, specifically Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoygu, which coordinated all Strelkov’s actions.