KYIV — Now that Ukraine has begun a military offensive to subdue armed separatists, some leaders are calling for increased sanctions on Russia.
In the past week Ukraine's military has engaged in deadly combat with insurgents planning an independence referendum on Sunday.
Government troops quickly moved to set up perimeters around some rebel-held towns like Slovyansk, but have been slow to attack strongholds in highly populated areas to avoid civilian casualties. In other parts of the southeastern region, security forces and pro-Russians fighters have battled over strategic positions or buildings.
While the military effort has not produced an immediate and overwhelming victory, former Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk says it sends a message to Moscow that Ukraine will respond to force with force. So now he says it is the time for Western nations to also increase economic pressure on Russia.
"Ukraine does the anti-terrorist offensive and the West implements sanctions against Russia, because to wait and persuade will not work," said Kravchuk.
Ukraine's leaders accuse Russia of supporting the separatists to destabilize the country in advance of the May 25 elections, and to annex the southeastern region of country as it did earlier this year to Crimea. The former Ukrainian president says Russia wants to dictate its own conditions and not only to Ukraine.
University of Kyiv Mohyla Academy politics professor Olexiy Haran says Russia's annexation of Crimea and destabilization efforts are not just problems for Ukraine. They are, he says, an assault on the collective security of Europe.
“So this is the question to the international community," said Haran."How are you going to live with this direct annexation, because everything undermining the territorial status quo in Europe is undermined?”
Negotiations with Ukraine, Russia, the United States and European countries have to this point failed to find a peaceful solution to the conflict.
Russia says it has no control over pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine but did propose that further international talks to end the crisis include the rebel groups.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague was in Kyiv on Wednesday to support Ukraine's efforts to contain the separatists. He said Western nations are preparing the next phase of sanctions against Russia.
“These are more far reaching measures covering economic and trade and financial areas. And we are not saying they are only imposed If there is a military invasion of Ukraine," said Hague.
The limited sanctions have had some effect in stimulating capital flight and lowering some stock prices in Russia. But the British foreign secretary says increased sanctions over time will cause real economic pain as other countries work to end their energy dependence on Russia.