The Russian advance and new front came just as Ukrainian forces were gaining on the pro-Russian rebels in the East of the country, virtually encircling them in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions. The new southern front opened by the capture of Novoazovsk is strategically important as it opens access to the black sea for the separatists, and thus to the Russian-controlled Crimea peninsula. President Poroshenko has called the situation ‘extremely difficult’ but ‘under control,’ calling not to panic.
The separatist leaders have said their next objective is the city of Mariupol, where on the same day thousands of the city’s residents held a pro-Ukrainian rally, brandishing Ukrainian flags, singing the Ukrainian anthem and protesting the war and Russia’s attack. Speakers discussed what the people of Mariupol should or could do to defend their city or help the Ukrainian army soldiers, who are said to be digging into their defences around the city.
On the same day Ukraine’s Security Council reintroduced compulsary military service, and Prime Minister Arseni Yatseniuk appealed to the US, the EU and the G7 countries "to freeze Russian assets and finances until Russia withdraws armed forces, equipment and agents".
UN Security Council
On the same day Ukraine called an emergency session of the UN Security Council to discuss the situation. However, the session brought only a heated discussion showing an isolated Russia. US Ambassador Samantha Power said Russia ‘has manipulated. It has obfuscated. It has outright lied’ about its involvement in Ukraine. Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin hit back by saying Kiev is waging war on its own people. He, however, did not deny the presence of Russian troops in Ukraine but called them ‘volunteers.’ British Ambassador Lyall Grant said ‘now we see irrefutable evidence of regular Russian forces operating inside Ukraine.’ The German Ambassador tweeted: ‘all but one #UNSC members condemn recent military escalation, call for restraint. Just one member has very different narrative,’ clearly referring to Russia. Other alarmed members of the Security Council also demanded Russia’s withdrawal from Ukraine, but had no instruments at their disposal other than individual statements, as Russia, as a permanent member of the council, has a veto right.
The NATO is holding an emergency meeting to discuss the situation today. The previous day a senior NATO official, Brigadier General Nico Tak, said at least 1000 Russian troops are operating in Ukraine and released satellite photos of Russian artillery units there. Commenting on the photos, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said it ‘seriously just makes no sense.’
US President Obama said today that he has spoken with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and both agree that Russia must face the consequences of its actions. An EU summit on 31 August is scheduled to consider tougher sanctions against Russia.