The situation in Crimea looks ominous. Russia’s FSB spy agency said on Wednesday that it had foiled a series of attacks by armed Ukrainians on the peninsula. Minutes later, Vladimir Putin accused Kiev’s pro-western government of choosing terror over peace. Meanwhile, largely unnoticed by the outside world, Russia has been stealthily shipping military vehicles to Crimea, which Putin annexed in the spring of 2014.
What is going on? As ever in the opaque world of neo-Kremlinology, nobody quite knows. But two years after Putin sent “little green men” – actually undercover Russian special forces soldiers – to overrun Crimea, another military offensive seems distinctly possible. Crimea’s “parliament” said Ukraine had already launched an undeclared war. Ukraine says the supposed plot is FSB fiction.
The new Crimea crisis has come from nowhere. Over in the east, there have been daily clashes between pro-Russia rebels and Ukrainian government forces in Donetsk and Luhansk, with a spike in recent weeks. But the Perekop isthmus, the rustic sliver of territory between Crimea and Ukraine’s southern Kherson province, has been quiet. There was no fighting here even in 2014, when Putin staged his land grab.
All of this leads to the suspicion, voiced by Carl Bildt, Sweden’s former prime minister and others, that Russia may be about to invade again.