The Kiev government is going to great lengths to attempt and justify its incoming attempts at escalating the situation in Eastern Ukraine and towards Crimea.
On April 1st, but not as a joke, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Moscow is trying to put pressure on Kiev by amassing its military forces along the Russian-Ukrainian border.
In a Facebook post, Zelensky noted he would highlight two points in the issue of war and peace. “First of all, it’s about Donbas. Indeed, escalation has been observed since year-start. Twenty dead and 57 wounded in the first months alone. This is the price of war and defending our independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of our Ukraine.”
At the same time, the head of state notes that work continues to ensure that the ceasefire in eastern Ukraine becomes effective.
“Sanctions against [Putin’s political ally in Ukraine] Viktor Medvedchuk, our loud and firm position on Ukraine’s independence and progress towards peace, and unconditional support from our Western partners annoy the enemy who invaded Donbas and occupied Crimea. This is understandable. Also understandable is that we would like to return to the situation where the ceasefire regime operated more efficiently – as it was from July 27, 2020, when over the course of months the number of wounded and killed in action was lower by scores. So we’re working on this,” Zelensky stressed.
He also claimed that muscle-flexing is something that Moscow does frequently, in an attempt to “scare” Ukraine.
“Muscle flexing in the format of military exercises and possible provocations along the border is a regular thing for Russia. Thus, they try to create an atmosphere of threat and at the same time pressure during negotiations on a ceasefire and peace, which is our value,” Zelensky added.
Our Army is not only about strength and power, it is also about wisdom and balance. Our state is about unity. We are always prepared for any provocations,” the president assured.
Zelensky noted that the process of negotiating settlement is complicated.
“But no one expected that it would be easy. It always hurts to lose our people. Each report of combat death brings pain to families, relatives, all Ukrainians, and me as president. That is why we never stop, why we work on agreeing on truce as the fastest tactical step. Our strategy is certainly about peace and the return of our people and territories,” the president said.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian media headlines citing the first Ukrainian President Kravchuk claim that Russia allegedly refused to renew the ceasefire in Donbass. In fact, all the parties stressed the importance of full compliance with the “Measures to strengthen the ceasefire”, agreed on July 22, 2020. However, loud headlines did their job.
On the same day, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba expressed concern over a new escalation in Eastern Ukraine.
“Ukraine and its partners state that Russia systemically aggravates the security situation in Donetsk and Luhansk regions and in Crimea while refusing to reaffirm its commitment to ceasefire. Russia’s current escalation is systemic, largest in recent years. Russia’s actions have brought the situation to a dead end. The only way out is diplomacy,” Kuleba said in a statement released by the MFA press service.
He said that Moscow is responsible for all of this, of course, and Kiev is simply the victim.
Kuleba said Moscow “must cease escalating military tensions, immediately and unconditionally reaffirm its commitment to political-diplomatic means of resolving the conflict and recommit to ceasefire.”
The issue of Donbas escalation was on the agenda of a phone call on March 31st between Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken. The Pentagon has also warned the parties against aggravation in Eastern Ukraine.
David Arakhamiya, the leader of Zelensky’s Servant of the People party faction, has stated that the support provided by the United States of America strengthens Ukraine’s defense capabilities.
As such it is feeling emboldened that it could carry out its escalation, it simply needs due justification to do so, and attempts to do so are urgently being manufactured.
“Amid the aggression and temporary occupation of part of our territories by Russia, such support contributes to the strengthening of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and, consequently, the defense capabilities of Ukraine,” he said.
Most notably, Ukraine’s military intelligence agency, GUR MO said that “Russia may try to go for an incursion and deploy its troops deeper into Ukrainian territory.”
Russia is also preparing to provoke Ukraine into a military response, GUR MO reported April 1.
“The Russian Federation is completing preparations for a set of measures, aimed at pushing our country for a military response to the invaders’ hostile action on the contact line in eastern Ukraine, expanding Russia’s military presence on the territory of the so-called ‘DPR’ and ‘LPR’ by introducing regular units of the Russian armed forces, justifying the move by the need to protect Russian citizens in the self-proclaimed republics (in fact, citizens of Ukraine, who were forcibly handed Russian passports over the recent years),” the report said.
The GUR added that Russian diplomatic missions and pro-Kremlin media had been instructed to be ready to report and explain to the international community information about the allegedly “aggressive moves by the Armed Forces of Ukraine and ‘peacekeeping’ efforts by Russia in response.”
Meanwhile a video from Eastern Ukraine emerged online. It allegedly shows a Ukrainian soldier launching missiles with no sight, claiming that there is a “yard law” to shoot first.
In singular response, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned Ukraine against being “pushed from the outside” to launch a hot phase of the Donbas conflict, claiming the move threatens to destroy the country.
“Those who will try to start a new war in Donbas will destroy Ukraine,” Lavrov said in an interview with Channel One, Deutsche Welle reported.
“According to the information published in the media, most of the military understand the perniciousness of any action to launch a hot conflict. I very much hope they will not be incited by politicians, who, in turn, will be incited by the West led by the United States,” Lavrov said,
Lavrov noted that a lot of speculation was observed about the documents recently approved by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine and signed by President Volodymyr Zelensky.
“To what extent does this reflect actual politics? And to what extent is it aimed at solving Zelensky’s issues within the country related to a sliding rating? I don’t know if this is a bluff or concrete plans,” the Russian foreign minister added.
Currently, in Eastern Ukraine, the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics began military conscription to bulk up their forces, expecting that Kiev would begin an escalation soon.
To coordinate what is potentially to transpire, Western military delegations are present in Kiev for discussions. The Pentagon said that the US was aware of the maneuvers of Russian troops on the border with Ukraine. The U.S. is discussing the issue with NATO Allies.
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