So far this year, the conflict has claimed the lives of 30 Ukrainian soldiers, compared to 50 throughout 2020. According to European Union estimates, more than 100,000 Russian soldiers are now stationed along the Ukrainian border, according to Agence France-Presse.
According to a statement by Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Koliba, Russian snipers are shooting at Ukrainian soldiers in order to provoke – provocations he asks his soldiers to “not respond to”.
“Within a week, they will have a combined force of more than 120,000 soldiers,” Koliba said during a digital press conference, calling for new Western sanctions to deter Moscow from “further escalation,” according to Reuters.
Exercises in the Black Sea
Kuliba mentions that Ukraine wants a diplomatic solution to the conflict and that he requested to meet his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov several months ago, but Lavrov did not accept the outstretched hand.
The Russian fleet in the Black Sea on Tuesday held exercises in the region with the air force, the Russian news agency Interfax reported.
Russia has also imposed temporary restrictions on air movement over parts of the Crimea and the Black Sea, as well as restrictions on the right to sail in Russian territorial waters for foreign military ships and other ships from April 24 to October 31.
According to Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, Ukraine is trying to destabilize the situation in Donetsk. He also stated that the United States and NATO were involved in “provocative activities” in the Black Sea, which forced Russia to engage in strategic deterrence maneuvers, according to Interfax.
“The Ukrainian political military leadership continues to walk down a devastating road in an attempt to destabilize the situation in Donetsk,” he said during a meeting of the Ministry of Defense on Tuesday.
According to Agence France-Presse, the parties to the conflict, including international observers, met on Tuesday to discuss the tense situation along the border. A spokesperson for the Ukrainian delegation said after the meeting that the parties had made progress in trying to restore the ceasefire reached in July 2020.
The Kiev government has been fighting separatists in Donetsk and Luhansk since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014. The conflict has claimed more than 13,000 lives.
Mia Holmberg Carlson / TT
In the winter of 2013-2014, Ukraine was shaken by mounting protests against then-pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych, who refused to sign a cooperation agreement with the European Union. The president’s violent attempt to quell the demonstrations caused a great outrage and led to his flight to Russia in February 2014.
The counter-protests in Crimea, with the majority of the Russian-speaking population, at the same time led to a swift referendum demanding Russian membership, followed by the annexation of Russia in violation of international law.
In parallel, protests also erupted in the Donetsk and Luhansk provinces, where the situation subsequently deteriorated into a civil war. Most of the two provinces today operate as breakaway republics with close ties to Russia. On the front line, there are regular clashes between Russian-backed local militias and Ukrainian government soldiers.
Russia has vehemently denied its involvement in Donetsk and Luhansk and considers itself fully eligible for Crimea, citing the referendum. However, the European Union and the United States refused to accept the peninsula as Russian and have contracts with economic sanctions against a large number of Russian and Ukrainian politicians, the military and companies.