Is the Ukraine crisis over?
Conflict comes to a head : EU speaks of 150,000 Russian soldiers on the border with Ukraine
According to the EU Foreign Affairs Representative Josep Borrell, Russia has "more than 150,000 soldiers" stationed on the border with Ukraine and on the annexed Crimean peninsula. This is "the largest Russian military march on the Ukrainian borders that there has ever been," said Borrell on Monday after consultations with the EU foreign ministers. This is "the risk of further escalation obvious".
The foreign ministers of the 27 EU countries discussed Russia because of Navalny's situation and the increasing tensions on the Russian border with Ukraine. Before the meeting, EU Foreign Affairs Representative Josep Borrell said that the EU made Russia “responsible for Mr Navalny's health situation”.
Given the strong surge of Russian troops along the border with Ukraine, there are currently major concerns that the conflict in eastern Ukraine will escalate again. The government in Moscow rejects the allegations of the troop deployment. Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu recently described the transfer of thousands of soldiers as an exercise.
Further EU sanctions or expulsions of Russian diplomats are currently not planned. There is no movement in this direction, said Borrell after the video conference of the foreign ministers of the member states. Things could change, but that was the current state of affairs.
The Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitri Kuleba had previously expressed the wish that the EU should prepare additional economic sanctions as part of a step-by-step plan to deter Russia. He was temporarily connected to the EU video conference.
Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas is concerned
Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (SPD) also expressed concern about the “military march”. It is therefore primarily a matter of preventing “unintended events from setting in motion a spiral of military escalation,” he said in Berlin. It is necessary for both sides to have "a reasonable dialogue".
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Maas confirmed discussions at working level for a possible meeting in Normandy format. This would be a meeting of representatives of Russia and Ukraine, mediated by Germany and France. Whether this will happen is still open, said Maas. This also applies to the level at which such a meeting can take place.
“We stand by our Ukrainian partners closely, right now,” Maas continued. He spoke of an "extremely tense situation" in which the level-headed and diplomatic path of the Ukrainian government deserves "our full appreciation". There is still a chance, however, that Russia will adhere to its self-imposed obligations regarding transparency in troop transfers. For the EU, the territorial integrity of Ukraine is "not up for grabs". The Minsk Agreement with Ukraine must be fully implemented.
More than 13,000 people were killed in the conflict with pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, which has been going on since 2014. Since mid-February there has been increased fighting again, which has further undermined an already fragile ceasefire. Moscow and Kiev blame each other for this. (AFP, dpa, Reuters)
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