VLADIMIR PUTIN’S latest victory in Ukraine is turning into a rout. Having already induced Western leaders to endorse a peace plan that virtually guarantees continued Russian control over parts of two provinces, the Russian ruler ordered a large Ukrainian force holding Debaltseve, a key crossroads in the region, to surrender. His forces, including regular Russian army troops, then assaulted the city in brazen violation of a cease-fire. On Wednesday morning, Ukrainian forces withdrew from Debaltseve under fire, suffering a devastating defeat that will further destabilize the shaky Kiev government of Petro Poroshenko.
Mr. Putin was so pleased that he indulged in some taunting of the Ukrainians. “Of course, it’s always bad to lose,” he said at a news conference Tuesday. “It’s always a hardship when you lose to yesterday’s miners or yesterday’s tractor drivers.” That was another lie, of course — the forces who seized Debaltseve were not former Ukrainian workers but Russian regulars; one Western reporter encountered soldiers who had been dispatched from Siberia.