Rumours of War: NATO Backs Ukraine Amid Rising Tensions with Russia

Written by | Tuesday, April 6th, 2021

A serious escalation in the conflict in Donbass, a region in eastern Ukraine, could “destroy” the country, Russia warned on Thursday (1 April), as NATO voiced concern over a reportedly major Russian military build-up near eastern Ukraine. Unverified social media footage has suggested Russia has been moving large quantities of tanks, armoured personnel carriers and other equipment to regions that border Ukraine as well as to Crimea, which Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014. “Partly, it is the usual tactics, turning up and down the conflict to create instability, to show that Russia is a key player,” said one EU diplomat. “We cannot exclude that Biden’s presidency is part of the Russian calculus, that it’s time for Moscow to show a bit of muscle.” The Russian activity poses an early challenge to US President Joe Biden’s administration, which this week held phone calls with senior Ukrainian officials in a public show of support for the country‘s government.
Moscow and Kyiv have long accused each other of failing to implement the so-called Minsk-2 peace deal over Donbass. Six years ago the Minsk Protocol was signed to bring the fighting in Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region to a halt, but the peace agreement’s 13 terms were never properly implemented. Relations are further strained by the fate of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to Germany, which Kyiv and Washington want to halt, and by a crackdown in Ukraine on a prominent businessman close to Russia. NATO said it was concerned about the Russian military build-up as NATO ambassadors met to discuss a recent spike in violence in the eastern Donbass region, where Ukrainian troops have battled Russian-backed separatist forces in a conflict Kyiv estimates has killed 14,000 people since 2014.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell’s office on Thursday slammed a fresh Russian military conscription drive in the Crimean peninsula annexed from Ukraine as “another violation of international humanitarian law”. The strongly worded statement underlined European concerns as Russia stepped up troop movements on the Ukrainian border and in Crimea, along areas where separatists backed by Moscow are fighting Ukraine’s forces. “Today (Thursday), the Russian Federation has launched yet another conscription campaign in the illegally-annexed Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol to draft residents of the peninsula in the Russian Federation Armed Forces,” the statement said. It stressed that “the Russian Federation is bound by international law, and obliged to ensure the protection of human rights on the peninsula” and reiterated “the EU does not and will not recognize the illegal annexation” of Crimea and its main city of Sevastopol.

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