Moscow (Associated Press)-Ukrainian and Western officials worry that Russia’s military build-up near Ukraine may signal Moscow’s plan to invade its former Soviet neighbors.
The Kremlin insists that it has no such intentions and accuses Ukraine and its Western supporters of claiming to cover up what they call aggressive designs.
It is not clear whether the concentration of the Russian army foreshadows an impending attack, or on behalf of Russian President Vladimir Putin, trying to persuade the United States and its NATO allies not to send soldiers and weapons to Ukraine and abandon their plan to eventually integrate into NATO.
The following are the current tensions:
What is the root cause of the confrontation between Russia and Ukraine?
Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula in 2014 after the country’s pro-Moscow president stepped down due to mass protests. A few weeks later, Russia fully supported the separatist rebellion that broke out in eastern Ukraine.
Ukraine and the West accuse Russia of sending troops and weapons to support the rebels. Moscow denies this, accusing the Russians who have joined the separatists as volunteers.
More than 14,000 people were killed in the battle that destroyed the Donbass, the industrial heartland of eastern Ukraine.
The 2015 peace agreement facilitated by France and Germany helped to end the large-scale fighting, but efforts to reach a political solution failed, and sporadic small-scale conflicts continued along the tense lines of contact.
Earlier this year, the surge in the eastern ceasefire and the build-up of Russian troops near Ukraine intensified war fears, but after Moscow withdrew most of its troops after the April exercise, tensions eased.
The latest Russian military construction
Ukraine complained this month that after a large-scale war in western Russia in the fall, Moscow kept about 90,000 soldiers near the border between the two countries.
The Ministry of Defense of Ukraine stated that the troops of the Russian 41st Army remain in the vicinity of Yelnya, a small town about 260 kilometers (160 miles) north of the Ukrainian border.
The commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, Lieutenant General Valery Zaluzhny, said that Russia also has about 2,100 military personnel in the eastern regions controlled by the rebels, and Russian officers hold all command positions in the separatist forces. Moscow has repeatedly denied the presence of its troops in eastern Ukraine.
Kyrylo Budanov, the head of Ukraine’s military intelligence agency, claimed in an interview with the Military Times over the weekend that Moscow is preparing to launch from various directions, including Russian ally Belarus, at the end of January or early February. Assault.
Russia did not provide any details about the number and location of its troops, saying that their deployment on its territory should not be related to anyone.
What does Moscow want?
The Kremlin accused Ukraine of failing to comply with the 2015 peace agreement and criticized the West for failing to encourage Ukraine to comply with the agreement. The agreement is a diplomatic coup in Moscow, requiring Ukraine to grant broad autonomy to the rebel regions and provide a full amnesty to the rebels.
In turn, Ukraine pointed out that Russia-backed separatists violated the ceasefire and that Russian troops continued to exist in the rebellious east — allegations denied by the Kremlin.
Among the mutual accusations, Russia rejected the four-party talks with Ukraine, France, and Germany, saying it was useless given Ukraine’s refusal to comply with the 2015 agreement.
Moscow strongly criticized the United States and its NATO allies for providing weapons to Ukraine and conducting joint exercises, saying this encouraged Ukrainian hawks to try to regain rebel-controlled areas by force.
Earlier this year, Putin said ominously that Ukraine’s military attempt to regain the rebellious east would “have serious consequences for Ukraine’s statehood”.
The Russian leader has repeatedly claimed that the Russians and Ukrainians are “one people”, and accused Ukraine’s vast territory as part of Russia’s history-the Communist Party leader under the leadership of the Soviet Union arbitrarily awarded Ukraine.
Putin strongly emphasized that Ukraine’s desire to join NATO is Moscow’s red line, and he also expressed concern about some NATO member states’ plans to establish military training centers in Ukraine. He said that even if Ukraine does not join NATO, this will give them a military foothold there.
Putin said last month: “They may put anything there in the name of a training center.” “May never become a full member of NATO, but the military development of the territory is already underway.”
Is the threat of Russian invasion real?
Russia refuses to refer to the invasion plot as a Western smear campaign and accuses that these claims may conceal Ukraine’s intention to launch an attack in the east. Ukraine denies such plans.
U.S. officials acknowledged that Moscow’s intentions are unclear, but pointed out that Russia’s past behavior is worrying.
This month, U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Brinken stated in an interview with the Ukrainian Foreign Minister that Putin’s “playbook” was to build an army near the border and then invade, “wrongly claiming that (Russia) was provoked”.
Some observers believe that the increase in troops is Putin showing that Russia is ready to increase the bet to persuade NATO to respect Moscow’s red line and stop sending troops and weapons to Ukraine.
Last week, Putin pointed out with satisfaction that Moscow’s warning finally received some support and caused “a certain amount of pressure” in the West. He added: “It is necessary to keep them in this state for as long as possible, so that they don’t think of some conflicts on the western border that we don’t need.”
He urged Russian diplomats to promote “serious long-term guarantees to ensure our safety in this region, because Russia cannot continue to do that and keep thinking about what might happen tomorrow.”