President Petro Poroshenko on Aug. 11 put Ukraine's armed forces on high alert and "full combat readiness" near the lines of control with Russian-annexed Crimea and the separatist region of Donbas. Russia meanwhile announced it has deployed long-range S-400 missile systems in Crimea. Russian state TV has broadcast footage of men confessing to a plot to carry out terror attacks on the annexed peninsula. The accused saboteurs tell interrogators they were acting on orders from Kiev. Said Russia's President Vladimir Putin: "Our special forces prevented terrorist attacks organized by the Ukrainian Defense Ministry—the situation is pretty disturbing." Responded Poroshenko: "These fantasies are just a pretext for another portion of military threats against Ukraine." (Kyiv Post, NYT, Al Jazeera, BBC News)
Further violations of the ceasefire with the separatist enclaves are also reported. The Russian-backed separatist forces mounted 61 attacks against Ukrainian forces over the last 24 hours, Ukraine's military headquarters said Aug. 13. The hostilities included use of weapons banned under the Minsk II agreement signed in February. (Ukraine Today)
The escalation comes as Russia has moved up its State Duma elections to Sept. 18, leading Anders Aslund of the Atlantic Council to speculate that Putin is preparing to exercise his predilection for "small and victorious wars" to mobilize his base, recalling that the 1999 Chechnya war preceded his rise to president. (Ukraine Today)
That war was also lubricated by a possibly concocted terrorist plot. The 1999 apartment block bombings in Moscow and two other Russian cities did for Putin what 9-11 did for Bush, igniting a new war with Chechnya, propelling the hardline Putin into the Kremlin—and similarly sparking a frenzy of conspiracy theories.