In light of Russian troop movements and the worsening situation in eastern Ukraine, NATO is warning Moscow against further escalation. "NATO will continue to support Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity. We remain vigilant and continue to monitor the situation very closely," a NATO spokesman told Die Welt. He said Russia's destabilizing actions were undermining all efforts to de-escalate tensions.
The round of 30 NATO ambassadors had already met on April 1, the spokesman said. "The allies share their concern about Russia's large-scale military activity in and around Ukraine." They were also concerned that Russia had violated the July 2020 cease-fire agreement, which led to the deaths of four Ukrainian soldiers last week, he said.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson also expressed concern about Russian troop movements on the Crimean peninsula and the Ukrainian border. Johnson expressed the British government's "considerable concern" in a phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Selenskyj on Monday, Downing Street reported. Selenskyj expressed gratitude for the support. Ukraine, he said, is "not alone" and has the support of the G-7 countries. Prior to Johnson, America's President Joe Biden and EU foreign affairs envoy Josep Borrell had already pledged their support to the government in Kiev.
Reports of troop movements
According to the Ukrainian government, Russia is currently massing thousands of military personnel on its borders as well as on the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea, which was annexed by Moscow.
More than 13,000 people have already been killed in the conflict over eastern Ukraine, which has been ongoing since 2014. In July, the parties to the conflict had agreed on a ceasefire. Since mid-February, however, there has been increased fighting, undermining the already fragile ceasefire. Moscow and Kiev blame each other for this.
Most recently, Ukraine and pro-Russian rebels had accused each other of deadly attacks. The self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic said the Ukrainian army killed a young child in a drone attack on Saturday. Ukraine's Defense Ministry said Monday the reports were a "gross, cynical, evil and godless manipulation."
Arctic is also a flashpoint
According to the Pentagon, Russia's military activities in the Arctic are not going unnoticed either. "Obviously, we're watching this very closely," Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Monday in Washington. A reporter had asked him how concerned America's Defense Department was in light of reports of weapons tests and satellite images of new Russian bases.
"No one has an interest in the Arctic being militarized," Kirby said. The United States has national security interests in the Arctic, he said. The region is critical to national defense and "potential strategic corridor" between the Indo-Pacific, Europe and the United States, he said.
The Arctic is of strategic importance for all bordering states - and not only from a military point of view. Huge quantities of oil and gas are suspected to exist there. There are repeated territorial disputes over the valuable natural resources.
At the end of March, the Russian Navy used nuclear-powered submarines to break through meter-thick ice in the Arctic during an exercise, demonstrating its presence in the region. "Russia is renovating Soviet-era airfields and radar facilities, building new ports and search and rescue centers," U.S. broadcaster CNN quoted Pentagon spokesman Thomas Campbell as saying in a report Monday. In addition, Russia is expanding its fleet of nuclear- and conventionally-powered icebreakers and strengthening anti-attack and territorial defense capabilities over key parts of the Arctic, he said.
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