Wednesday, May 25

A new escalation in the war in eastern Ukraine puts the EU and the US on alert | International

The war in eastern Ukraine has escalated in recent weeks. The fighting between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian separatists, backed militarily and politically by the Kremlin, is the worst in months; a new sign that the hostilities, which have completed seven years and which have claimed some 14,000 lives, according to the UN, are far from being a frozen conflict. Moscow has further raised the tension by mobilizing troops a hundred kilometers from the border with Ukraine, which has reinforced its units in the east and along the Crimean peninsula, which Russia annexed in 2014. Russian military movements put They are testing the scope of support for Ukraine from the EU and the United States, and are a new pulse for Moscow at the worst moment of its relations.

The Kremlin, which accuses Ukraine of rising tension and “provocations” to heat up hostilities and lead to open warfare, has denied that it is preparing an attack. However, he has adamantly defended that he is free to move his army across his territory to guarantee Russia’s security. A move that Dmitri Peskov, the spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, described as “necessary” given what he considered “increased activity” by the forces of NATO partners and other countries. “Russia does not represent a threat to any country in the world,” Peskov stressed on Monday. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has also warned that a worsening of the military conflict in the Donbas region, in which the Kremlin has always denied its participation, could “destroy” Ukraine. its number twoSergei Ryabkov, assured this Monday that he maintains “high-level contacts with the Americans” on the Ukrainian situation.

The March 26 death of four Ukrainian soldiers north of the Donetsk city line of contact ended up blowing up the fragile ceasefire agreed to last July. The truce, which had suffered constant violations with increasingly aggressive skirmishes, was the eighth to be blown up since 2018. Ukraine now accuses Moscow, in addition, of “disguising” with new military movements what is actually a deployment of “tactical groups,” said Ruslan Khomchak, commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian Army.

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So far this year, 19 Ukrainian soldiers have died in the conflict in the Donbas region, triggered after the pro-European citizen mobilization that overthrew President Víktor Yanukovych, an ally of the Kremlin, and Russia’s annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea with a referendum considered illegal by the international community. The war eased in 2015, following the Minsk agreements between Russia and Ukraine, negotiated by France and Germany. However, the pact has not finished being implemented and now the voices that see it as dead paper are emerging 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 due to the case of the opposition Alexei Navalni, a victim of poisoning after the that the hand of the Kremlin is appreciated. And augmented by the comments of US President Joe Biden, who declared that he considers Putin a murderer. It comes at a time when Russia has defined its relations with the EU – whom it has accused of slowing down the approval of its coronavirus vaccine for politics – as “non-existent” and after the fiasco of the visit of the High Representative for Foreign Policy from the EU, Josep Borrell, to Moscow. The US and the EU, which sanctioned Russia for annexing Crimea, financially support Ukraine with hundreds of millions of euros in foreign aid. Washington also seeks military assistance to Kiev.

Moscow’s intentions with the new escalation of tension and military movements are not clear to experts. Although the fact that they are being carried out in a visible way gives an idea that their intention is not to launch a large-scale attack. Rather, believes Alyona Getmanchuk, director of the think tank New Europe Center, tries to show its muscle and put the new Biden Administration to the test.

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Analysts such as Michael Kofman, director of the Russia studies program at the analysis corporation CNA, believe that Moscow is trying to intimidate Ukraine and pressure its Western allies to back certain political concessions with the aim of having Russia defuse the tension. .

A soldier from the self-proclaimed republic of Donetsk points a gun at the contact line on April 2.
A soldier from the self-proclaimed republic of Donetsk points a gun at the contact line on April 2. ALEXANDER ERMOCHENKO / Reuters

The United States, which with the new escalation has raised its level of surveillance of the conflict to “imminent potential crisis” – the highest – according to The New York Times, has asked the Kremlin for explanations about its “proocations”, as explained by the State Department this Monday. And on Friday, Biden had a conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenski, in which he expressed his “unwavering support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of Russia’s ongoing aggression,” according to a White House note. .

Biden knows Ukraine well from his time as Vice President of the Barack Obama Administration, when he played a leading role in the international response to Russian annexation and in coordinating the fight against corruption, which was devouring the country. And Ukraine was the trigger for the first impeachment to Donald Trump, after in a conversation with Zelensky he conditioned the aid to Kiev on the Ukrainian leader opening an investigation into the business of Biden’s son in the eastern country and the role of the Democrat, who was then his main rival.

The EU has also promised its “unwavering” support to the Government of Ukraine, according to the head of European diplomacy after a call with the Ukrainian Foreign Minister. Borrell, like France and Germany, who issued a joint statement, expressed concern about Russian military activity and announced that it would hold meetings on the recent escalation with the foreign ministers of the 27 and with diplomatic representatives from Kiev later this month. Brussels has also accused Moscow of again violating international law by launching a recruitment drive in Crimea.

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The Russian military deployments, which various investigative outlets and social media channels have documented in recent days, appear to be outside the planned exercise cycle and are not “regular troop rotations,” Kofman further writes. That makes other officials and experts think that it is still too early to rule out that these movements are the prelude to something else. An argument fueled by comments like that of the director of the Kremlin-funded channel RT, Margarita Simonian, who has remarked that Russians living in the Donbas “must live in Russia.” Since 2019, when it passed a new law to streamline it, Russia has issued 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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