Regardless of what happened it has set back the prospect of peace talks
This article originally appeared at Ron Paul Institute
On Tuesday a civilian bus was attacked in the breakaway region of eastern Ukraine.
Some 12 people were killed in what was initially reported to be a grad missile attack but that looks much more like the work of some sort of small arms fire or anti-personnel mine.
After weeks of a shaky ceasefire — which was not much of a ceasefire to the 1,300+ killed in the breakaway region since it was announced — it appears a return to open combat is increasingly likely.
The State Department immediately blamed the bus attack on the pro-independence militia in eastern Ukraine, again making a connection between the militia and what it claims is its Russian sponsor.
According to State Department Spokesperson Marie Harf, the bus attack was "just the latest egregious violations of the commitments made by the Russian-backed separatists."
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which has monitors on the ground in the region, as not assigned blame for the attack, but, as with the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH-17, the US immediately blamed the separatists and their alleged Russian backers.
It remains to be seen how the pro-independence fighters would benefit by blowing up a bus full of civilians from their own region.
However, the timing could not have been better if the aim was to scuttle the four-party talks between Ukraine, Russia, France, and Germany that were scheduled to begin tomorrow.
French president Francois Holland had called for EU sanctions against Russia to be lifted if any progress was made at the talks.
The talks have been cancelled after preliminary discussions yielded no progress and the fighting in the east has intensified.
The bus attack, if the Europeans hew to the US line that the separatists were responsible, will likely decrease the chance of any possible EU/US split on sanctions.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian president Poroshenko has declared the he will move more troops to the front line.
The Ukraine Freedom Support Act of 2014, passed by the US Congress and signed into law in December by President Obama, urges Poroshenko to retake areas in eastern Ukraine currently under control of the separatists, pledging US funding and weapons should Kiev decide to move ahead.
Finally, the US Treasury Department announced yesterday that it would extend an additional $2 billion in loan guarantees to the Ukrainian government, suggesting that Kiev's US sponsor will continue to back the cash-strapped regime.
What is next?