Moscow delivered a damning indictment of post-revolutionary Ukraine on Monday, denouncing alleged discrimination of the ethnic Russian minority, accusing the west of sponsoring a takeover of the country by "terrorists" and "extremists", and clashing with Washington over plans for early elections in May.
"Russia is extremely concerned about the situation in Ukraine," said a foreign ministry statement, which followed the highest-level reaction from Moscow so far to the collapse of Viktor Yanukovych's presidency. Dmitry Medvedev, the prime minister and former president, accused the post-Yanukovych authorities and parliament of lacking legitimacy.
The new interim leaders of Ukraine said the country needed $35bn (£21bn) over the next two years and fast action on a bailout, as Moscow signalled its was freezing its $15bn in cheap loans – the package offered in November when Yanukovych triggered the uprising by turning to Russia and away from the European Union.This is not an armed invasion by Russian tanks, but it amounts to using most of the non-military weapons available to Russia in the situation. There are significant cultural divisions between western and eastern Ukraine. It seems likely that Russia intends to seek ways to exploit those. This map gives an overview of the breakdown.
The Russian foreign ministry statement pressed all the buttons that will have the west and Kiev alarmed about ethnic and religious strife fracturing the country in two. It complained that ethnic Russian rights were already being violated after the parliament rescinded the status of Russian as a second language.
One of the most pressing questions for the US and EU is whether they are prepared to replace Russia as Ukraine's sugar daddy. Putin has called off his his bailout deal. The IMF is sticking to its austerity terms which would likely be like throwing a lighted match into the present political powder keg. Money from the EU means money from Germany in practice. Are Merkel and Obama prepared to shell out $15B to bring Ukraine into the arms of the west? It will require require more than just rhetorical promises of love and friendship.