Easter crisis in Ukraine: NATO drills and Russia military build-up

Easter crisis in Ukraine: NATO drills and Russia military build-up

While the German and most parts of the international public are preoccupied with Corona, Al Jazzerre is broadcasting the Black Lives Matter- George Floyd US trial live and for hours and China is pushing its military around Taiwan and the South China Sea, Russia’s troop movements are worrying NATO . The situation in eastern Ukraine and on the Russian side of the border appears to be worsening. Kiev receives numerous expressions of solidarity. Also from the EU. In view of Russian troop movements and the worsening situation in eastern Ukraine, NATO warns Moscow against further escalation. “NATO will continue to support the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. We remain vigilant and continue to monitor the situation very closely, ”said a NATO spokesman to the German newspaper“ Welt ”. Russia’s destabilizing measures would undermine all efforts to de-deescalate tensions. The group of 30 NATO ambassadors met on April 1, the spokesman said. „The Allies share concern about Russia’s large-scale military activities in and around Ukraine.“ It is also concerned that Russia violated the July 2020 ceasefire agreement, which resulted in the deaths of four Ukrainian soldiers last week have. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson also expressed concern about Russian troop movements on the Crimean peninsula and on the Ukrainian border. Downing Street announced that Johnson had expressed the British government’s „serious concern“ in a telephone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyi on Monday. Zelenskyi thanked them for their support. Ukraine is „not alone“ and is supported by the G-7 countries. Before Johnson, America’s President Joe Biden and EU Foreign Affairs Representative Josep Borrell had given the government in Kiev their support.

According to the Ukrainian government, Russia is currently gathering thousands of military personnel on its borders and on the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea, which has been annexed by Moscow. In the conflict over eastern Ukraine, which has been going on since 2014, more than 13,000 people have been killed. In July, the conflicting parties agreed on a ceasefire. Since mid-February, however, there has been increased fighting that undermines the already fragile ceasefire. Moscow and Kiev blame each other for this. Most recently, Ukraine and pro-Russian rebels accused each other of fatal attacks. The self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic said the Ukrainian army killed a young child in a drone attack on Saturday. The Ukrainian Defense Ministry said on Monday that the reports were „gross, cynical, evil and godless manipulation“. The Arctic is also a focal point According to the Pentagon, Russia’s military activities in the Arctic have not gone unnoticed either. „Of course we are watching it very closely,“ said Pentagon spokesman John Kirby on Monday in Washington. A reporter had asked him how concerned the US Department of Defense was with reports of weapons tests and satellite imagery of new Russian bases.

While the US and NATO as Russia are mobilzing military around the Arctic and the US in the South China Sea, NATO wants to have a military drill with Ukraine in the near future. The Ukrainian army has announced a joint military exercise with NATO in a few months‘ time. More than 1,000 soldiers from at least five NATO member states are to take part, the armed forces write on Facebook. In the current tense situation, the exercise is apparently intended to serve as a deterrent – but it could also worsen relations with Russia.“In particular, defense is rehearsed, followed by an offensive to restore a country’s border and the territorial integrity of a state threatened by a neighboring state,“ the statement said. The army did not give a date for the exercise, and the location was also initially unknown. Ukraine is under massive threat from Russia. Russia has annexed the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea and is also providing military support to rebels in eastern Ukraine. In recent years there have been several militarily sensitive situations along the Russian-Ukrainian border. Currently, however, the tensions go beyond the usual saber rattle. Russia is concentrating more military units than before along the border, while Ukraine is preparing to call up reservists. US President Joe Biden assured his Ukrainian colleague Volodymyr Selenskyj on Friday that he could count on America’s „unshakable support“ for the country’s sovereignty and integrity. Both presidents made their first phone call since Biden took office on Friday. In a press release, the White House accused Russia of „continuing aggression“ in Donbass and the Crimea. Ukrainian President Zelenskyi accused Russia on Thursday of having increased its troop presence on the border with Ukraine. Moscow wanted to create a „threatening atmosphere“. Ukrainian military intelligence accused the Russian army of wanting to expand its presence in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions controlled by the pro-Russian rebels.

Putin and Biden seem to test out the other side. China wiill also closely watch the will of the USA to react. NATO drills with Ukraine are nothing new. Even before the Maidan revolt, former Ukrainian President Yanukovic regulary allowed NATO drills (Trident) in Ukraine, even when he was denounced by Western media as Putin´s puppet. Even during the Belarus crisis in 2020 there were NATO drills. In the middle of the power struggle in neighboring Belarus, Ukraine was holding a military maneuver together with NATO soldiers. The exercises began on Thursday (September 17) about 180 kilometers from Belarus on the country’s western border. The Ukrainian President Volodymyr Selenskyj said at the beginning: „We must achieve the adaptation of the armed forces of Ukraine to the corresponding structures of the alliance as soon as possible.“ NATO is also practicing in Lithuania, which also borders Belarus. The Belarusian army itself is holding its own maneuver on the border with Poland together with Russia. Protests had been taking place there every day since the presidential election in Belarus on August 9th. During the exercise in Ukraine, more than 4,000 mostly Ukrainian soldiers will train with “Rapid Trident” (German: “Schneller Dreizack”) until 25 September with heavy equipment and aircraft. Because of the corona pandemic, however, fewer foreign armed forces were involved than originally planned. At the same time, a Ukrainian company of motorized infantrymen with several armored personnel carriers was taking part in a US maneuver in Hohenfels (Bavaria). The Ukrainian army has been conducting joint exercises with US and NATO troops since the mid-1990s. Western trainers have also been training Ukrainians in the fight against the Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine since 2015. So it remains to be seen how this Easter crisis will develop.

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