The war in eastern Ukraine has intensified in recent weeks. The fighting between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists, supported militarily and politically by the Kremlin, is the worst in several months, in a new sample that the hostilities, which have already completed seven years and cost 14,000 lives, according to the UN, are far from having an end. Moscow further increased tension by mobilizing troops a hundred kilometers from the border with Ukraine, which in turn strengthened its units in the east of the country and along the Crimean peninsula, which Russia annexed for itself in 2014. Military movements Russians serve as a test for European Union and United States support for Kiev, marking a new dispute with Moscow at the worst moment of relations between Russia and the West in several decades.
The Kremlin, which accuses Ukraine of causing increased tension and of “provoking” to heat up hostilities and lead to open war, has denied that it is preparing an attack. However, he vehemently defended his right to mobilize his army in his territory to guarantee Russia’s security – a move that Dmitri Peskov, spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, described as “necessary” in the face of “greater activity” the forces of NATO countries and other governments. “Russia does not pose a threat to any country in the world,” said Peskov on Monday. Russian Chancellor Serguei Lavrov also warned that a renewed military conflict in the Donbas region, in which the Kremlin has always denied participating, could “destroy” Ukraine. His number two, Sergei Ryabkov, said on Monday that he has “high-level contacts with the Americans” about the Ukrainian situation.
The death of four Ukrainian soldiers north of the Donetsk city line on March 26 ended the dynamics of the fragile ceasefire defined last July. The truce, which had suffered constant violations with increasingly aggressive skirmishes, was the eighth to go up in the air since 2018. Ukraine now accuses Moscow of also “putting on makeup” with the new military movements, which in fact would be maneuvers of “tactical groups” ”, According to Ruslan Khomchak, commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian Army.
Since the beginning of the year, 19 Ukrainian military personnel have died in the conflict in the Donbas region, triggered after the pro-European popular mobilization that toppled President Viktor Yanukovich, an ally of the Kremlin, and the annexation of Crimea by Russia, in a referendum that was considered illegal. by the international community. The war softened in 2015, after the Minsk agreements between Russia and Ukraine, negotiated by France and Germany. However, the pact was not fully implemented and now the voices that consider it a dead letter are appearing again.
The escalation in eastern Ukraine, a geostrategic point for the EU and NATO in their relations with Russia, occurs at a time of serious tensions also between Moscow and the West because of the situation of opposition activist Alexei Navalni, the victim of poisoning. widely attributed to the Kremlin. The context is also aggravated by comments by US President Joe Biden, who has declared that he considers Putin a murderer. It comes at a time when Russia has defined its relations with the EU as “non-existent” – which it accuses of delaying the approval of its coronavirus vaccine for political reasons – and the fiasco of the visit of the high representative of the EU’s Foreign Policy, Josep Borrell, Moscow. The US and the EU, which imposed sanctions on Russia for annexing Crimea, economically support Ukraine with hundreds of millions of dollars in international aid. Washington, moreover, provides military assistance to Kiev.
Moscow’s intentions with the new escalation of tension and military movements are unclear to experts. The fact that they occur in a visible way gives the impression that their intention is not to launch a large-scale attack, but rather, believes Alyona Getmanchuk, director of the New Europe Center strategy office, to show muscle and put the new Administration in check of Biden.
Analysts like Michael Kofman, director of the program of studies on Russia at the analysis corporation CNA, believe that Moscow is trying to intimidate Ukraine and pressure its Western allies to support certain political concessions, so that Russia, in return, calms the tension.
The United States, which with the new escalation, according The New York Times, raised their level of surveillance of the conflict to “the potential imminent crisis” – the highest -, asked the Kremlin for explanations of its “provocations”, as reported by the State Department on Monday. And on Friday, Biden spoke with Ukrainian President Volodimir Zelenski to express his “unwavering support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of ongoing aggression by Russia,” according to a White House note.
Biden knows Ukraine well from the time he was vice president of Barack Obama, when he played a leading role in the international reaction to Russian annexation and in coordinating the fight against corruption, which was devouring the country. And Ukraine was the trigger for Donald Trump’s first impeachment, after, in a conversation with Zelenski, the then president conditioned the release of military aid to Kiev to the Ukrainian leader to open an investigation into the business of Biden’s son in the country. European and the role of the Democrat, who was then his main rival.
The EU also pledged its unwavering support to the Government of Ukraine, as pointed out by the head of European diplomacy after a telephone conversation with the Ukrainian chancellor. Borrell, like France and Germany, who issued a joint statement, expressed their concern about Russian military activity and announced that it would hold meetings on the recent escalation with 27 foreign ministers and Kiev diplomatic representatives later this month. . Brussels also accused Moscow of violating international law again by launching a campaign to recruit soldiers in Crimea.
Russian military mobilizations, which various investigative vehicles and social media channels have documented in recent days, appear to be outside the expected exercise cycle and do not constitute “regular troop rotations,” writes Kofman. This leads other officials and experts to believe that it is still too early to rule out that these movements are the prelude to something else. It is an argument fueled by comments from Margarida Simonian, director of the Russian channel RT, funded by the Kremlin, who stressed that Russians living in the Donbas region “must live in Russia”. Since 2019, when it passed a new law to streamline this process, Russia has delivered more than 420,000 passports to citizens of the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Lugansk, according to data from the Russian parliamentary bulletin.
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