(The Daily Beast – "Is Putin’s Next Move to Take Over Odessa?") Crimea is in Moscow’s hands. Deadly fighting has broken out in parts of Eastern Ukraine. And now there are signs that Russian President Vladimir Putin may have picked his next targets: First a small breakaway state in Moldova, west of Ukraine, where thousands of Moscow’s troops are already stationed; then its close neighbor Odessa, Ukraine’s third-largest city and its largest remaining port, where pro-Russian and pro-government groups are tangling. If forces loyal to Putin can successfully disrupt Odessa, it could effectively cut the county of Ukraine in two.
A firefight between pro-Russian forces and Ukrainian troops left three dead and 13 wounded in the Black Sea port of Mariupol late on Wednesday. Officials and experts inside Ukraine are also becoming more and more concerned that weeks of unrest, likely spurred on by the Russian government, are increasing in frequency and scale in Transnistria, the autonomous region on the Ukraine-Moldova border where as many as 2,500 Russian peacekeepers are stationed. Protests and counter-protests have also spread to Odessa—a city of over 1 million that’s less than 50 miles from Transnistria. And that’s stoking fears of a new front opening in the raging battle between the Ukrainian government in Kiev and pro-Russian forces operating all over eastern and now southern Ukraine. If Transnistria moves into Putin’s camp, Odessa could well follow. […]
Dmitry Gorenburg: “There’s key Russian personnel in all of these cities.”
Samuel Charap. “The point is not whether they can change the political realities in Odessa, it is to use instability and unrest in those places to achieve their broader objectives in Ukraine.”
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