With the tensions of the conflict increasingly electric, Ukraine on Wednesday urged NATO countries to prepare new economic sanctions to deter Russia from possible aggression. Kiev, which is not a member of the Atlantic Alliance, but is aware that it is a geostrategic country for the West, believes that the measure would help prevent the deepening of an increasingly volatile crisis.
The situation has heated up these weeks with the concentration of some 114,000 Russian soldiers around its borders at a time when the Russian annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea – considered illegal by the international community – and the Donbas conflict are eight years old. years. The last war in Europe, where pro-Russian separatists fight with the political and military support of Moscow, has already taken some 14,000 lives, according to United Nations estimates, and left 1.5 million displaced.
As Russia’s warnings rise in tone and plot the Kremlin’s accusations against the government of Volodymyr Zelensky, whom it accuses of flirting with NATO and mobilizing half its army in the conflict zone, the Ukrainian leader has avoided entering on the Moscow accusations and has called for direct talks with the Kremlin on Wednesday. “We must speak knowing that we have [delante] to a strong and powerful army, ”said the Ukrainian leader in Parliament (the Rada), who has insisted that he is not afraid to speak directly with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin. Meanwhile, the Kremlin maintains that the conflict is an internal Ukrainian problem and has been defining it for years as a “civil war”.
More and more hawk
Zelensky, a former comedian with no political experience, swept the election two years ago on the promise of trying to negotiate with Russia to resolve the conflict. Some then saw him as a fragile adversary for the veteran Russian president. Since coming to power, however, the Ukrainian leader has adopted hawkish positions, ironclad in defense. “Let’s close this issue, this is our country and we have to fight for our territories the best we can,” insisted Zelenski in his annual speech on the state of the nation.
The anti-corruption and pro-European mobilizations of 2013 ended with the eviction and flight of then-president Víktor Yanukovich, an ally of the Kremlin, and led to the Russian annexation of the Crimean peninsula and the Donbas war. Since this turn to the West, Moscow has tried to keep Ukraine, a former Soviet republic of 44 million people, under its sphere of influence and, above all, to prevent Kiev and NATO from deepening their ties. In recent days, as tension in a simmering conflict rages, fears in Ukraine of a hot new war are fueled.
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Moscow says it believes that Kiev could be preparing an offensive to regain control of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, self-proclaimed republics. Russia has issued some 600,000 passports in these territories and a recent decree signed by Putin establishes as a priority for Moscow to provide humanitarian assistance and open a market for its products. The Ukrainian government has denied that it has any offensive plans and regards Russia’s argument as an excuse to intervene and launch a large-scale armed aggression in the Donbas.
The escalation of hostilities in recent weeks, topped off by NATO warning calls about the Russian threat, underscores the fragility of the ceasefire that is supposedly reigning along the front line in the eastern Ukraine war. It also shows the freezing of the diplomatic agreements signed in 2015 in Minsk, with the mediation of France and Germany.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.