The battle for the Donetsk airport raged for another day as casualties continued to pile up. The fight to control the airport was the one of the most destructive since the uprising began in East Ukraine after a US and EU backed coup overthrew the elected government of President Viktor Yanukovych.
Upon the election in West Ukraine of Petro Poroshenko – an election East Ukraine did not participate in – a new assault was launched that has claimed the lives of at least 50 separatist fighters and untold numbers of civilians.
As bullets and shrapnel fly in the east, Kiev is in a tense standoff with Russia over natural gas prices and past debts. With Russia’s Gazprom threatening to shut down gas supplies in days if Kiev and Moscow do not agree.
A failure to resolve this latest gas dispute threatens to derail the success of the democratic elections held Sunday, and Russia’s recognition of those elections. It would likely result in a partial or complete shut-off of gas supplies to Ukraine – which also acts as a transit country for much of the gas Europe imports from Russia. The onset of summer and European efforts to diversify its energy supply would soften the blow of such a disruption, but it remains in everyone’s interest to sustain energy trade between Russia, Ukraine, and the European Union.
While energy diversification is a goal for Europe and Ukraine the possibility that such changes could be made anytime soon, let alone by this summer, are fanciful if not absurd. For now at least, Europe and Ukraine need that energy and do not have much of an alternative.
So in the coming days we may see Russia pull the plug on Ukraine and by proxy Europe, something that could further destabilize the situation.