I think it is important to recognize the need, from a propaganda perspective, for Kiev and D.C. to declare this a "Russian-directed counter-offensive" and claim direct involvement of Russian military units. The reason is simple enough given Obama's comments today where he says the rebellion is not a "homegrown, indigenous uprising" as that is key to shaping the narrative. Most independent evidence strongly suggests significant representation of locals among the rebels. Natch, there are foreign volunteers in the mix as well, but except for a brief period for a few weeks, the leadership has consisted of people who are native to Ukraine and from the beginning most fighters have been locals. For the West and Kiev, it is important to de-legtimize the rebels by claiming they are just Russian soldiers pretending to be locals.
Another key part of this narrative of a Russian invasion is the narrative Kiev has been pushing for the past few weeks. They have been insisting constantly that they were crushing the rebels and were going to take everything back. Some significant defeats were effectively denied, such as what happened in the south of Luhansk where Kiev's forces had to pull out with a large contingent even fleeing across the Russian border to escape a rebel encirclement. Despite it having happened weeks ago, their maps repeatedly showed the territory as being under their control. Additionally, in the past week or so there has been evidence of modest gains by the rebels with not even a slight accusation of direct Russian involvement. Before we started hearing these claims of Russian invasion, rebels said they had encircled a very large group of pro-Kiev forces. We now have independent evidence suggesting this was indeed happening.
Everything I just described conflicts strongly with the recurring narrative from Kiev that they were on the cusp of absolute victory. It has to be understood this is at least partly for domestic consumption as there has been a lot of hostility regarding the war. Since security forces from the east and south were routinely defecting to the rebels or just refusing to fight them, Kiev started bringing in people from the west and north who had fewer connections to the region. Part of this involved calling up reserves and introducing the draft. They also started arming far-right and ultranationalist partisan groups to help fill the void. Until that point they were simply unable to do anything about the rebels.
Yet, this strategy also had consequences. They are now dependent on groups like Right Sector and other radicals who have used the threat of pulling out to pressure the government into ignoring their member's deeds elsewhere. Right Sector actually threatened to pulls its troops, march on Kiev, and remove the government nearly two weeks ago because members of their group were being arrested. Kiev buckled immediately and released all Right Sector prisoners. Another problem is that it has stirred up a lot of enmity within the north and west. Relatives and others in the region have been protesting off and on regarding their loved ones being sent to the east. Part of the problem is because forces in the region have been poorly supplied and the military is threadbare. Desertions are relatively common.
Back when there was first talk of a rebel counter-offensive and people were dismissing some of the more radical claims of advances, I did suggest the poor state of the pro-Kiev forces and the opposition back home made a successful counter-offensive a distinct possibility. I have no doubt that many military units, facing a significant counter-offensive of any kind, would be more prone to a hasty retreat than a determined last stand. Such retreats often leave room for massive advances. See what happened when the rebels fled Slovyansk for an example. A large amount of the territory they were able to gain was due to that singular act.
Does this mean no Russian troops are involved? No. However, I think people should not be quick to believe what they are told by various people who need Russian troops to be involved so they can maintain a certain desirable narrative regarding the conflict.
"For what is Evil but Good-tortured by its own hunger and thirst?"
- Khalil Gibran
This has been a war of aggression on the part of Russia from the beginning, first with economic warfare in order to prevent the Ukraine's right to self determination which prompted peaceful protests supported by the majority of Ukrainians which resulted in a Russian puppet at the direct behest of Putin, sending in his jack booted thugs to attack and murder the protesters which resulted in his impeachment followed by his treasonous self imposed exile to Russian occupied territory, then what happened next is Russia invaded, occupied, installed an occupation government with Spec Ops holding AKs and rocket launchers in the Crimean parliamentary building during the swearing in of a new Crimean "prime minister" and this was followed by the outright illegal annexation of sovereign Ukrainian territory by the Russian Federation through a fraudulent and illegal referendum in which only two options were offered cessation or annexation rather than maintaining the status quo and which did not allow for the majority of Ukrainians to participate, and which violated both the Ukrainian and Crimean Constitutions which mandated that all Ukrainians be allowed to participate in any referendum regarding changes of sovereign Ukrainian territory.
Killing one person is murder, killing 100,000 is foreign policy