Often overlooked is what the invasion-and that's what it is even if President Obama and the Europeans are afraid to utter the "i word"-has meant for Ukrainians in lands taken by Vladimir Putin's forces. In a report Thursday, the United Nations provided a bracing look behind the new Putin curtain. Life for people there is brutish and dangerous. The "cease fire" signed in early September in eastern Ukraine is a farce: In that time, 957 people have died, or about 13 every day, says the U.N.
Altogether, since well-armed men in camouflage came out of nowhere in April and claimed to rule the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk on Russia's behalf, 4,317 people have been killed and 9,921 wounded. All these lives are on the docket, if not conscience, of Russian President Putin. His spies, soldiers and media disinformers conjured a conflict in eastern Ukraine from nothing.
"New Russia," per Moscow's preferred phrase, is in the hands of Russian soldiers, mercenaries and local gangsters. The U.N. reports that their rule is bringing about "the total breakdown of law and order." This is Mad Max territory of summary executions, kidnappings and torture. Monitors found evidence of three mass graves.
The situation in Crimea, which Russia claimed to annex in March, is underreported but also grim. The victims of Moscow's satraps in the peninsula are the remaining opponents of Russian rule, primarily the Muslim Crimean Tatar minority. Their leaders have been expelled, their media outlets threatened.
In all these conquered lands, Mr. Putin is imposing the model of repressive rule perfected in Russia. Like so many Russians in Russia itself, Ukrainians are voting with their feet. Almost a million have fled the Putin zones, leaving behind mainly those who can't, such as the elderly and poor. The recent Russian military buildup along the Ukrainian border and in Donetsk and Luhansk suggests more of the same in lands further west.