In recent years there have been several militarily sensitive situations along the Russian-Ukrainian border – but now new tensions in eastern Ukraine 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. Against this background, the US warned the Russian government against attempts to “intimidate or threaten our partner Ukraine”.
Now the Kremlin has responded to the allegations. “Russia threatens no one and has never threatened anyone,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists. Regarding a possible Western troop transfer to Ukraine, Peskov emphasized that “such a scenario would undoubtedly lead to a further rise in tensions near the Russian borders”: “Of course, this would require additional measures on the Russian side to ensure Russian security guarantee.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Selenskyj 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.
The US government expressed concern at the reports. Foreign Office spokesman Ned Price condemned the “recent escalation of the aggressive and provocative action by Russia in eastern Ukraine.” According to information from Kiev, US Defense Minister Lloyd Austin promised his Ukrainian colleague Andrei Taran in a telephone call not to leave Ukraine “in the event of escalating Russian aggression”.
In the conflict over eastern Ukraine, which has been going on since 2014, more than 13,000 people were killed. Russia rejects the allegation that it provides military support to the rebels in the region. In July last year, the conflicting parties agreed on a ceasefire. Since mid-February, however, there has been increased fighting that undermines the already fragile ceasefire. Experts believe that the Russian troop transfers could serve to test the reaction of the new US administration under President Joe Biden.