Ukraine-Russian crisis: What should you know about Russia’s troop movements
After Moscow claimed it was returning troops and bases to Russia, NATO allies stated that Russia is building up its border forces close to Ukraine. Separatist authorities in Luhansk, eastern Ukraine, are reporting an increase of Ukrainian shelling along the tense line in contact with the east. The claim is denied by Ukraine.
Antony Blinken, U.S. Secretary, will attend a Munich security conference where Russia will be the focal point. In 2015, the U.N. Security Council held its annual meeting to discuss the agreements that were made in order to end war in Ukraine’s Donbas.
Here’s a look at what is happening where and why:
WHAT ARE RUSSIAN TROOPS DOING?
NATO allies accuse Russia of misleading the globe by claiming it has returned some troops from bases. Instead, they claim that around 7,000 troops have been added at a tense frontier with Ukraine.
The British government called Russia’s claim to be withdrawing troops from the border “disinformation,” in line with statements from the United States on Wednesday. Sky News’ Armed Forces Minister James Heappey stated that he believed Russia and Ukraine were closer together than they had been at the beginning of the week.
Maxar Technologies, a commercial satellite imaging company, reported that Russia has continued to increase military activity in the vicinity of Ukraine. This included a new pontoon bridge in Belarus and a field hospital in Belarus.
Russia has deployed more than 150,000 troops on the three sides of Ukraine over recent weeks. However, it denies any plans to invade. It wants Ukraine and other ex-Soviet countries to be kept out of NATO and stop their weapons deployments near Russian borders. The U.S. and its allies rejected these demands but offered to hold talks about bolstering European security.
WHAT IS HAPPENING AT THE UKRAINIAN BOARD?
Separatist authorities in the Luhansk region reported an increase in Ukrainian shelling along the tense line of contact, describing it as a “large-scale provocation.” Separatist official Rodion Miroshnik said that rebel forces have returned the fire.
Ukraine disputed the claim, saying that separatists had shelled its forces, but they didn’t fire back. Two civilians were injured when shells hit a kindergarten. The Ukrainian military command also claimed that power was cut to half of the town.
There are concerns that a flare-up in the east could be used by Russia as a pretext for rolling across the border — though there was no immediate sign that the fighting was more intense than usual.
WHAT IS HAPPENING AT THE DIPLOMATIC FRONT
EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said Thursday that “diplomacy has not yet spoken its last word.”
The U.N. Security Council meets annually to discuss a deal for the eastern Ukrainian separatist conflict. Russia is the rotating council president and this month, it chairs the meeting.
Italy’s foreign minister met with his Russian counterpart in Moscow and said moves for a diplomatic solution were continuing, adding “a diplomatic solution means avoiding any kind of sanctions.”
WHAT ARE UKRAINIANS DOING NOW?
Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the Ukrainian President, suggested that NATO membership was a distant dream for his nation. He blamed both Russia and unidentified NATO members.
“It is not the Ukrainian people who choose when we will be (in NATO), because it depends not only on us: 30 countries must unanimously agree on this decision,” Zelenskyy said in the Black Sea coast city of Mariupol.
Zelenskyy cited “opposition from Russia, which does not want Ukraine to be a member of NATO, and of some member countries in the alliance. This is no secret.”
He stated that discussions are not being held in Ukraine regarding holding a referendum on NATO membership.
WHAT DOES NATO DO?
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg opened a meeting in Brussels of defense ministers. He said Russia has “yet again demonstrated its disregard for the principles underpinning European security, and its ability and willingness to threaten the use of force in pursuit of its objectives.”
In the meantime, the alliance is strengthening its eastern regions.
The U.S. is now planning to send 5,000 troops into Poland and Romania. Another 8.500 soldiers are currently on standby. Britain has sent hundreds of soldiers to Poland, and is offering more warships or planes. It doubles the Estonian personnel and sends tanks and armored fighting vehicle. The Netherlands, Norway, Germany and the Netherlands are all sending additional troops to Lithuania. Spain and Denmark are providing aircraft for air policing operations in the Baltic Sea area.
Vladimir Isachenkov was in Moscow; Yuras Kmanau in Kyiv Ukraine; Lorne Clarke in Brussels; Jill Lawless (London), Frances D’Emilio (Rome), Edith Lederer (United Nations) contributed.