REUTERS

Analysts of the Brussels-headquartered International Crisis Group (ICG) NGO believe a full-scale invasion of Russian troops into the territory of Ukraine is unlikely.

"Troop numbers and postures, although worrying, do not fit the template for an invasion," RFE/RL's Ukrainian bureau wrote, quoting the ICG's report.

According to analysts, "the troop build-up could set the stage for a standoff in which Ukraine has to choose between doing nothing in the face of repeated provocations and acting in response, which Moscow could take as an excuse to escalate further."

Experts say Russia, for its part, insists the troop movements are routine training exercises that threaten no one. But its deployment of paratroopers to Crimea, annexed by Russia in 2014, and its establishment of a base camp at Voronezh, five hours' drive from Ukraine's eastern frontier, are not simple reshuffles.

Yet Russia's recent troop movements and rhetoric suggest it may be growing frustrated, and perhaps is trying to squeeze Ukraine into making concessions. Moscow may hope that a combination of force build-up and Russian rhetoric about "protecting citizens" will make Kyiv think twice about responding if Russian-backed forces, unbound by the ceasefire as it dissolves, seek tactical advantages, analysts say.

"Though the new outpost in Voronezh appears temporary, with the weather warming up, troops could stay there at least until Russian-Belarusian exercises scheduled for September. The Kremlin may hope that Western responses to the deployments demonstrate again that for all the rhetoric, no Western state will come to Ukraine's aid if it faces an escalating military threat," the ICG said.

In addition, analysts suggest Russia is trying to blackmail not Ukraine, but the West, and is closely watching how the states will react to its actions near the Ukrainian border. However, the experts have no answer as to why Russia is pulling up troops, because it "has sent mixed signals about the purpose of its military deployments."

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  • On March 30, 2021, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Colonel-General Ruslan Khomchak said Russia had deployed 28 battalion tactical groups along the state border of Ukraine and in the temporarily occupied territories. It is also said to be planning to bring up to 25 battalion tactical groups under the guise of preparing for military drills. Such actions pose a threat to Ukraine's military security.
  • According to the Armed Forces of Ukraine, enemy troops are reinforcing their advanced units with reconnaissance teams and sniper pairs, involving Russian army instructors in personnel training. Russia-led forces' artillery units are reportedly on full alert in certain districts, including villages and towns in occupied Ukrainian territory.
  • The U.S. European Command raised its alert status to the highest level after fighting had resumed between Russia-led forces and Ukrainian troops in Donetsk region.
  • The U.S. Department of Defense said it was "aware of Russian troop movements" on Ukraine's borders and was concerned about recent escalations of Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine.
  • The United States, finding reports of Russian military movements on Ukraine's border credible, asked Moscow to explain the "provocations" and is ready to engage on the situation.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Moscow was trying to put pressure on Kyiv by amassing its military forces along the Russian-Ukrainian border.
  • On April 8, 2021, Khomchak assured the situation was under control, and the Ukrainian military was ready to respond to the escalation both in the temporarily occupied territory of Luhansk and Donetsk regions and along the entire Ukrainian-Russian border.