Russian forces, consisting of troops and armor, are streaming toward Ukraine’s border in the Donbass. Although Kremlin press spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that “it should not worry anyone and does not pose a threat to anyone” this is the most concerning move in the area since the Russians annexed Crimea in 2014.
The eastern Ukrainian region of the Donbass has largely been controlled by Russian-backed separatists since 2014.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused the Russians of building up troops on his country’s border and of having violated last year’s ceasefire. He demanded that Moscow stop escalating military tensions in the region.
Zelensky released a statement saying that Russian claims of “military exercises and possible provocations along the border are traditional Russian games.” He added that Moscow is creating “a threatening atmosphere” as the Ukrainians want a return to the ceasefire.
Ukraine and Russia have accused each other of violating the ceasefire, which ended on April 1. Zelensky reported that 20 Ukrainian troops have been killed thus far this year with another 57 wounded in clashes with Russian-backed separatists.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said in a statement that “Russia’s current escalation is systemic, [sic] largest in recent years,” adding that “Russia’s actions have brought the situation to a dead end. The only way out is diplomacy.”
Крым, 30 марта pic.twitter.com/yaMoN7leio
— IgorGirkin (@GirkinGirkin) March 30, 2021
Despite several different videos showing trains full of armored vehicles streaming toward the border, Moscow is insisting that it is not sending troops to reinforce the separatists in the Donbass.
“The Russian Federation moves its armed forces within its territory at its discretion,” Kremlin press spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, adding that “it should not worry anyone and does not pose a threat to anyone.”
Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, was quoted by the Russian TASS news agency as saying that any conflict would destroy Ukraine.
“The military understands the harmfulness of any action to unleash a hot conflict. I very much hope that they will not be prompted by politicians, who, in turn, will incite the West, led by the United States,” he said.
U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters on Thursday that, the U.S. was “absolutely concerned by recent escalations of Russian aggressive and provocative actions in eastern Ukraine.”
“What we would object to are aggressive actions that have an intent of intimidating, of threatening, our partner Ukraine,” he added.
The Russian actions have many analysts believing that Russian President Vladimir Putin is testing President Joe Biden and his new administration. Putin, who reacts aggressively to any challenge, had to be incensed at Biden’s comments calling him “a killer.”
During a March 18 interview with George Stephanopoulos, Biden said that Putin “will pay a price” for meddling in the U.S. presidential elections. Asked if he thought Putin was a killer, Biden responded with “Mmm, yes I do.”
With the ceasefire over and the current Russian forces’ buildup, tensions are rising sharply as Ukrainian and NATO military officials believe that we face a “potential imminent crisis.”
While Ukraine isn’t a member of NATO, the U.S. has pledged its “unwavering support for Ukraine’s sovereignty [and] territorial integrity” according to a statement from Secretary of State Anthony Blinken. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Mark Milley has met with his Ukrainian counterpart and discussed the issue.