Friday, 16 April, 2021

Biden pledges 'unwavering support' for Ukraine amid Russian military buildup

U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the White House campus in Washington U.S Joe Biden Vows'Unwavering Support for Ukraine in First Talks WIth Volodymyr Zelensky REUTERS JONATHAN ERNST
Ginger Lawrence | 03 April, 2021, 19:49

On Thursday, the U.S. warned Russian Federation against "intimidating" Ukraine, with both Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken calling their Ukrainian counterparts to stress their support.

Zelensky released a statement saying that Russian claims of "military exercises and possible provocations along the border are traditional Russian games". He accused Moscow of seeking to create "a threatening atmosphere" as Kyiv hopes to resume a cease-fire brokered past year. Although Kremlin press spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that "it should not worry anyone and does not pose a threat to anyone" this is the most concerning move in the area since the Russians annexed Crimea in 2014.

The US State Department said it was "absolutely concerned by recent escalations of Russian aggressive and provocative actions in eastern Ukraine".

Zelensky said 20 Ukrainian servicemen had been killed and 57 wounded since the start of the year.

The Kremlin said on Thursday the West should not "worry" about Russian troop movements on the Ukrainian border, as Kiev raised concerns that the conflict in the country's east could once again escalate.

Both US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have called their Ukrainian counterparts to stress support.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addresses the Ukrainian parliament in Kyiv, Ukraine, March, 4, 2020.

Although Russia has increased military activity near the Ukrainian border in the past, the situation today is particularly concerning since the ceasefire is about the expire.

Despite several different videos showing trains full of armored vehicles streaming toward the border, Moscow is insisting that it is not sending troops to reinforce the separatists in the Donbass.

Northern Ireland to face cold weather and possibly snow
Light rain or drizzle will develop in the northwest during the afternoon and spread southwards through the evening. The day will kick off mild enough, before outbreaks of rain, hail and even snow are expected to fall in Ulster.

Also on Wednesday, Mark Milley, chairman the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke with his Russian counterpart Valery Gerasimov and Ukraine's Commander in Chief Ruslan Khomchak.

The local witnesses reported a strong buildup of the Russian forces, along with their logistics units, which Moscow said was part of a "training exercise".

The conflict in eastern Ukraine - which broke out in 2014 following Ukraine's pro-Europe Maidan revolution and Russia's annexation of Crimea - has seen repeated flare-ups since a ceasefire was brokered in 2015, but the warnings and statements coming from Moscow, Kiev and Washington are the most serious and strongly worded in months.

Khomchak said this week that 28,000 separatist fighters and "more than 2,000 Russian military instructors and advisers" are now stationed in eastern Ukraine.

Ukraine's army commander Gen Ruslan Khomchak says Russian Federation has deployed 28 battalion tactical groups near Ukraine's eastern border and in Crimea, which would amount to 20,000-25,000 troops.

According to the military intelligence reports put together by the Pentagon, "some 4,000 heavily armed Russian forces had been observed moving in Crimea", CNN said, quoting a U.S. defense official.

On Thursday, the deputy head of Zelensky's office, Roman Mashovets, called for joint drills with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation forces to "help stabilise the security situation".

Zelenskiy was elected in 2019 on promises of ending the conflict, but critics say a shaky ceasefire was his only tangible achievement.