Despite Kremlin’s assurances their troops are not planning an invasion, Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine continue to violate the ceasefire along the 500km line boundary established in the 2015 Minsk agreement. The Ukrainian military reports 37 violations, 35 of which included incidents of the pro-Russian troops using weapons prohibited by the agreement on Saturday, according to CNN. Meanwhile, President Vladimir Putin observed strategic nuclear exercises, and the troops stationed at Ukraine’s border are advancing and now “poised to strike.”
Russian-backed troops Minsk agreement infractions included the use of 120mm mortars and 122mm artillery systems. One Ukrainian service member was killed in the shelling. He died from the shrapnel that struck him in the head after several rounds of mortar fire were directed at “enemy” troops on the opposite side of the border.
Mirroring President Joe Biden’s announcement the day before, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said, Saturday, it is apparent that Putin has decided to move ahead with the military attack against Ukraine. He further explains that troop activities show they are moving into position.
Biden, Austin, and others in the United States remain hopeful that diplomacy will defuse the impending war. The Defense Secretary added, “I believe we should try until the very last minute, until it’s not possible.”
However, the response to Russian aggression against Ukraine would be “swift, severe, and united” if Putin follows through with his passive-aggressive threat, promised Vice President Kamala Harris during the Munich Security Conference in Germany.
While delivering the keynote address in front of the largest international audience of her career, Harris outlined the retaliatory consequences; among them was the promise of significant and unprecedented economic sanctions.
I’m in Munich, Germany to lead the U.S. delegation at the Munich Security Conference. Tomorrow I will join other world leaders to underscore our commitments to our allies and partners, and demonstrate our unity in the face of Russian aggression on Ukraine’s borders.
— Vice President Kamala Harris (@VP) February 17, 2022
Putin has moved troops to Ukraine’s border; current estimates indicate over 150 thousand soldiers are awaiting their orders. The Russian president insisted he was not planning an invasion for a time. Still, U.S. intelligence officials report that war is imminent and Russia could attack Ukraine within the next week.
Despite Putin’s evasiveness about his intent with Ukraine, his actions seem as though he was preparing for an invasion. The Russian president has tried to refocus international attention onto his publicized military exercises. He and Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko observed the planned ballistic and cruise missile launches in Moscow. Russia is in the middle of an active phase of military drills, according to Putin’s press office, as reported by CNN.
Written by Cathy Milne-Ware
CNN: What is the Minsk agreement and is it a way out of Ukraine crisis? By Tim Lister
CNN: Live Updates: The latest on the Ukraine-Russia crisis; by Lauren Said-Moorhouse, Jeevan Ravindran, Sana Noor Haq, Peter Wilkinson, Adrienne Vogt, and Fernando Alfonso III
CNN: Ukraine says one soldier killed in renewed shelling near front lines; by Tim Lister and Olga Voitovuch in Kyiv
Reuters: Ukraine reports two soldiers killed in separatists shelling; by Natalia Zinets
Reuters: Russia holds nuclear drills, U.S. says Russian forces ‘poised to strike’ Ukraine; by Polina Nikolskaya and Tom Balmforth
Featured and Top Image Courtesy of United Nations Photo’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image by Vitaly V. Kuzmin Courtesy of Wikimedia – Creative Commons License