Russian officials defended the country's deployment of troops. Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov told reported on April 9 that the country was simply taking precautions, given the situation in the "dangerous [and] explosive region." He added that the situation in eastern Ukraine was extremely unstable and "the dynamics … create the danger of a resumption of full-scale hostilities."
Presidential Executive Office Deputy Chief of Staff Dmitry Kozak echoed a similar sentiment the day before. He said that Russia would be forced to defend its citizens living in eastern Ukraine when an all-out war breaks out, and spoke of "the beginning of the end for Ukraine." According to Russian data, at least 640,000 residents of the disputed Donbas region in Ukraine's east have Russian passports.
The government of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has expressed disagreement over granting separatist-held territories more autonomy for fear of giving Russia a stronger foothold in the region. On the other hand, a Kremlin readout reported that Russian President Vladimir Putin accused its southwestern neighbor of resuming "dangerous provocative actions" in Donbas. Putin made the claim during an April 9 call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Meanwhile, tensions between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists spiked up following a recent escalation of conflict. Kyiv said several soldiers were killed as a result.
Moscow has been exhorting Kyiv to implement a peace deal brokered by France and Germany in 2014 and 2015. The deal outlined a number of stipulations -- including local elections in Donbas, withdrawal of foreign troops and the return of the Russian border to Ukrainian control.
Moscow-based military analyst Konstantin Sivkov remarked that a diplomatic solution to the Donbas problem "requires a radical change in the position of the Kyiv authorities." He explained: "If the Kyiv authorities agree to the recognition of the federal structure of Ukraine … [and] agree to the equal status of the Russian language in Ukraine along with the Ukrainian language, then the whole problem will be resolved." (Related: The cheering section for World War III.)
However, another analyst expressed a more pessimistic view. "The ceasefire is over, and [with it] President Zelensky's strategy of negotiating something with Moscow," Institute of International Relations associate professor Mykola Kapitonenko said. He elaborated that Russia considers the peace deal dead, so it now has to do something to improve its negotiating leverage -- by means of military power. "Learning from previous experience, Ukraine should get ready for the worst-case scenario," Kapitonenko commented.
New Europe Center Director Alyona Getmanchuk meanwhile remarked that Ukraine clearly wants a diplomatic solution to the problem. However, she remarked that Zelensky made the mistake of being "too naive" when dealing with Russia. The director of the Kyiv-based think tank elaborated: "[Zelensky] was too native by thinking that he could reach a good deal with Putin ... on Ukrainian terms."
The U.S. voiced out its concern over increased Russian presence in the disputed areas. According to White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, Washington expressed worry over the increase of Russian troops in eastern Ukraine since 2014 alongside potential "Russian aggressions." She told reporters during a press briefing that the U.S. is discussing these matters with its allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
German Chancellor Angela Merkel meanwhile called on Putin to "de-escalate tensions" in the disputed area. A BBC report said Merkel discussed the conflict in Ukraine with the Russian leader during an April 8 phone call. She then exhorted Putin to pull his troops back from eastern Ukraine to stem the tide of potential violence.
Zelensky meanwhile posted on his Telegram channel: "Playing with muscles in the form of military exercises and possible provocations along the [Ukrainian] border is a traditional Russian affair. It seeks to create an atmosphere of threat and, at the same time, of pressure." The Ukrainian leader continued that expediting his country's membership in NATO would help prevent a deeper conflict with Russia.
However, both Russian officials and pro-Moscow analysts are of the opinion that adding NATO in the mix would exacerbate the tensions and serve as a recipe for disaster. Sivkov explained: "If the U.S and NATO begin to support Ukraine ... Russia will certainly enter a military conflict." (Related: Russia tells West to fear its nuclear arsenal.)
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