Miners walk along a railway at Panfilovskaya mine in the Donetsk region, 1998.
Courtesy Reuters

By the end of this month, it is likely that Vladimir Putin’s Russia will fully control Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula. And it is clear that he aspires to much more. Although a tense calm has settled over Crimea since thousands of Russian troops poured in a week ago, the chance for a Russian military push deeper into Ukraine increased markedly on March 4, when Putin declared at a press conference that he was “not worried” by the prospect of war with Ukraine. In a line that shook Ukrainians to their core, he continued that, if Russia decided to fight, it would be to “to protect Ukrainian citizens.” And it would be impossible, he hinted, for Ukrainian troops to do anything about that: “Let’s see those troops try to shoot their own people with us behind them -- not in the front but behind. Let them just try to shoot at women and children!” In one fell swoop, Putin had broadened his intentions in Ukraine from “protecting” Russian citizens (his rationale for invading and occupying Crimea) to “protecting” all of Ukraine and made clear that he would use Ukrainian civilians -- women and children -- as a shield for invading

This article is part of our premium archives.

To continue reading and get full access to our entire archive, you must subscribe.