From Russia’s perspective, the roiling conflict in Ukraine between pro-government troops and rebels looks like a country at war with itself, but according to officials in Kiev, the ongoing fight is about resisting Russia’s encroachment onto their soil — on behalf of Europe.

As The Washington Post reported Monday, the opposing sides’ inability to agree about the meaning, scale or nature of the clash made Moscow’s call for a cease-fire go unheeded.

Also read: Shades of Gaza in Ukraine?

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s minister of defense considers the moment to be one of sweeping historical significance:

“A great war has come, the likes of which Europe has not seen since the Second World War,” Ukrainian Defense Minister Valeriy Heletey said on his Facebook page Monday, adding that Ukraine must keep fighting and “show that Ukrainians are not going to give up.”

Lost territory, trapped soldiers, and increasing reports of Russian tanks and troops operating in eastern Ukraine have changed the course of events in the past few days. Newly emboldened rebel forces are bearing down on strategic targets, such as the port city of Mariupol — which the Ukrainian military maintains it can defend — and the airport in Luhansk, where troops retreated in the face of a rebel onslaught Monday.

Ukraine and Western allies have surmised that the pro-Russian separatists are not acting alone and that Russian forces are providing significant assistance.

“Russia is intervening overtly in Ukraine,” NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Monday, announcing that the alliance would draft a “Readiness Action Plan” at its upcoming summit in Wales to respond to “Russia’s aggressive behavior.”

[…] But Russia maintains that the threats from Europe are weak — and that it is not militarily involved in the Ukraine conflict.

However, that last contention on Russia’s part is still being challenged by the likes of Ukrainian National Security Council spokesman Col. Andriy Lysenko, who on Monday described Russia’s presence in Ukraine as consisting of “not less than four battalions” — meaning about 400 soldiers per battalion — “and tactical groups of the Russian armed forces are active in Ukraine.”

–Posted by Kasia Anderson

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