Russian armed divisions are moving close to the Ukrainian border in the Donbass. It's the same region where Russia and Ukraine have been engaged in a "low level" dispute since 2014. The huge movement of armed forces is a major source of concern: the US has put its troops in Europe on high alert. They announce to the Kremlin that the deployment of troops on the Ukrainian border "should not bother anyone," but Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyj spoke with US Vice President Joe Biden on the phone, receiving assurances of the US' "unchanged assistance" in the defense of Ukrainian sovereignty.
Sergej Garmash, one of the Ukrainian members of the trilateral dialogue group for Donbass, spoke with the current time.tv reporters about the situation. He was accompanied by Alexei Naumov, a Russian expert on international relations. "They are more worried about the situation abroad than we are in Ukraine," Garmash says.
Russia has denied its involvement in the conflict for seven years, without specifying why the provinces of Donetsk and Lugansk use the Russian ruble and have Russian weapons; their residents have Russian passports, and their representatives are advocating annexation to Russia.
"If Russia believes that this is an internal Ukrainian war, it should not condemn the Ukrainian government's interference, and it should avoid providing arms and money to the Donbass," Garmash says. Tensions are building along the disputed area's borders, while Ukraine is experiencing a markedly calmer situation within it.
The Security and Defense Council met in Kiev on April 2 under the presidency of Zelenskii, and only briefly mentioned the Donbass, assuring that "the Ukrainian army is capable of responding to any assault." Furthermore, the state of alert for US troops in Europe is not followed by equivalent steps for the Ukrainian army. "One gets the impression," Garmash adds, "that they're playing a geopolitical game with us," particularly after Biden's portrayal of Putin as a "killer."
Even Germany and France have stated that Russia is a party to the Ukrainian dispute rather than a mediator, and Russia's latest maneuvers seem to be a reaction to these claims. When things go wrong diplomatically, Russia follows its own script: it responds aggressively on a military basis. Garmash, on the other hand, claims that this is more of a ruse than a genuine threat.
Even though, according to Naumov, "now Russia has no interest in the worsening of the conflict, particularly in the final phase of the construction of the Nord Stream-2 gas pipeline," Russia appears unwilling to sit at the negotiating table of the "Norman Quartet" (Germany, France, Russia, and Ukraine) linked to the 2015 Minsk agreements.
In short, the accumulation of war materials is a warning to Kiev rather than a preparation for a Russian initiative; Kiev, on the other hand, is involved in the pipeline's collapse, as shown by its recent foreign policy activities.
However, Russia claims patronage in the Donbass region based on the "Russian" aspects of social life: the protection of the Russian language throughout, as well as recognition of the two provinces' autonomous "special status," a scheme that Moscow uses in other areas under its jurisdiction, such as Moldovan Transnistria or Georgian Abkhazia and Ossetia.
Moscow plans to flex its muscles in this regard, implying that it is still prepared for a resumption of hostilities. Furthermore, it is impossible to believe that the US wants to go to war with Russia over the eastern Ukrainian regions. It's more likely that they'll join the "Norman" faction at the negotiation table as a fifth party.