Russo-Ukrainian War

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Russo-Ukrainian War
Part of the Post-Soviet conflicts
300px
Military situation, as of 26 February 2022, during the 24 February offensive
       Controlled by Ukraine
       Controlled by Russia and pro-Russian forces
For a more detailed map, see the Russo-Ukrainian War detailed map
Date Crimea and Donbas regions: 20 February 2014[lower-alpha 1] – ongoing
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Large-scale Russian invasion: 24 February 2022 – ongoing
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Location Ukraine (with spillover into Russia)
Status

Ongoing

Territorial
changes
Belligerents
Ukraine Ukraine

Russia Russia
Donetsk People's Republic Donetsk PR
Luhansk People's Republic Luhansk PR

 Belarus
(since 2022)[1]
Commanders and leaders
Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy (since 2019)
Ukraine Petro Poroshenko
(2014–2019)
Ukraine Oleksandr Turchynov
(February–June 2014)
Ukraine Viktor Yanukovich (February 2014)
Ukraine Denys Shmyhal
(since 2020)
Ukraine Oleksiy Honcharuk (2019–2020)
Ukraine Volodymyr Groysman (2016–2019)
Ukraine Arseniy Yatsenyuk (2014–2016)
Ukraine Valerii Zaluzhnyi
Ukraine Yuriy Ilyin
Ukraine Mykhailo Kutsyn
Ukraine Viktor Muzhenko
Ukraine Ruslan Khomchak
Ukraine Pavlo Lebedyev
Ukraine Ihor Tenyukh
Ukraine Mykhailo Koval
Ukraine Valeriy Heletey
Ukraine Stepan Poltorak
Ukraine Andriy Zagorodniuk
Ukraine Andriy Taran
Ukraine Serhiy Korniychuk

Russia Vladimir Putin
Russia Mikhail Mishustin
(since 2020)
Russia Dmitry Medvedev
(2014–2020)
Russia Sergey Shoygu
Russia Valery Gerasimov
Russia Igor Korobov
Russia Aleksandr Vitko
Russia Denis Berezovsky
Russia Alexander Lentsov[13]

In Crimea
Russia Sergey Aksyonov
In DNR (Donetskaya Narodnaya Respublika, see DPR)
Donetsk People's Republic Denis Pushilin
(since 2018)
Donetsk People's Republic Dmitry Trapeznikov
(August–September 2018)
Donetsk People's Republic Alexander Zakharchenko
(2014–2018)
Russia Alexander Borodai
(May–August 2014)
In LNR (see LPR)
Luhansk People's Republic Leonid Pasechnik
(since 2017)
Luhansk People's Republic Igor Plotnitsky
(2014–2017)
Luhansk People's Republic Valery Bolotov
(May–August 2014)
In Belarus
Belarus Alexander Lukashenko
Belarus Roman Golovchenko
Units involved

Ukraine Ukraine
Armed Forces

Ministry of Internal Affairs (militarized component)

Security Service

Volunteer units

Russia Russia
Ground Forces

Airborne Troops[21][22][23][18]

Navy

GRU[25][18][26][27][28]

Ministry of Internal Affairs (militarized component)

Donetsk People's RepublicLuhansk People's Republic Pro-Russian separatists in Donbas
Donbas People's Militia

Luhansk People's Militia

Strength

209,000 active, including conscripts (2020)[32]

  • Army 145,000
  • Navy 11,000
  • Air Forces 45,000
  • Airborne ~8,000
  • Special Operations Forces (unknown)
  • Paramilitary 102,000
  • Reserve 900,000

900,000 active, including conscripts (2020)[32]

  • Army ~280,000
  • Navy ~150,000
  • Aerospace Forces ~165,000
  • Strategic Rocket Force 50,000
  • Airborne ~45,000
  • Special Operations Forces ~1,000
  • Railway Force ~29,000
  • Command and support 180,000
  • Paramilitary 554,000
  • Reserve 2,000,000

Of these, 28,000 confirmed in Crimea, 3,000 reported in Donbas and denied by Russia until 22 February 2022.[33]

~20,000

~14,000
For details, see Combatants of the war in Donbas and the Order of battle for the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine
Casualties and losses
4,619 killed[34][35]
9,700–10,700 wounded[36]
70 missing[37]
2,768 captured[38][39][40]
9,268 joined Russian forces after annexation[41]
300+ T-64 tanks[42]
5,768 killed[*][36][43]
12,700–13,700 wounded[36]
3,393 civilians killed;[44] 7,000–9,000 wounded[36]
13,100–13,300 killed; 29,500–33,500 wounded overall[36]
6 killed in Crimea (3 civilians)[45]
* Includes 400–500 Russian servicemen (US claim, March 2015)[46]

The Russo-Ukrainian War[47][lower-alpha 2] is an ongoing war primarily involving Russia, Belarus, and pro-Russian forces on one side, and Ukraine on the other. Armed conflict began in February 2014 in the wake of Euromaidan, centred on the status of Crimea and parts of the Donbas, which are internationally recognised as part of Ukraine. The conflict had included the Russian annexation of Crimea (2014), the Donbas War (2014–present), naval incidents, cyberwarfare, and political tensions. After Russian military buildups near Ukraine's borders in 2021,[48][49][50] Russia launched a large-scale invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022.[51][52][53][54]

Following the Euromaidan protests and the subsequent removal of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych on 22 February 2014, and amidst pro-Russian unrest in Ukraine, Russian soldiers without insignias took control of strategic positions and infrastructure within the Ukrainian territory of Crimea. On 1 March 2014, the Federation Council of the Russian Federation unanimously adopted a resolution to petition Russian President Vladimir Putin to use military force in Ukraine.[55] The resolution was adopted several days later, after the start of the Russian military operation on the "Returning of Crimea". Russia then annexed Crimea after a widely criticised local referendum which was organised by Russia after the capturing of the Crimean Parliament whose outcome was for the Autonomous Republic of Crimea to join the Russian Federation.[56][57][58][59] In April, demonstrations by pro-Russian groups in the Donbas area of Ukraine escalated into a war between the Ukrainian government and the Russian-backed separatist forces of the self-declared Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics. In August, Russian military vehicles crossed the border in several locations of Donetsk Oblast.[64] The incursion by the Russian military was seen as responsible for the defeat of Ukrainian forces in early September.[65][66]

In November 2014, the Ukrainian military reported intensive movement of troops and equipment from Russia into the separatist-controlled parts of the eastern Ukraine.[67] The Associated Press reported 40 unmarked military vehicles on the move in rebel-controlled areas.[68] The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Special Monitoring Mission observed convoys of heavy weapons and tanks in DPR-controlled territory without insignia.[69] OSCE monitors further stated they observed vehicles transporting ammunition and soldiers' dead bodies crossing the Russian-Ukrainian border under the guise of humanitarian aid convoys.[70] As of early August 2015, OSCE observed over 21 such vehicles marked with the Russian military code for soldiers killed in action.[71] According to The Moscow Times, Russia has tried to intimidate and silence human rights workers discussing Russian soldiers' deaths in the conflict.[72] OSCE has reported that its observers were denied access to the areas controlled by "combined Russian-separatist forces".[73]

The majority of members of the international community[74][75][76] and organizations such as Amnesty International[77] have condemned Russia for its actions in post-revolutionary Ukraine, accusing it of breaking international law and violating Ukrainian sovereignty. Many countries implemented economic sanctions against Russia, Russian individuals or companies.[78]

In October 2015, The Washington Post reported that Russia has redeployed some of its elite units from Ukraine to Syria to support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.[79] In December 2015, Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin admitted that Russian military intelligence officers were operating in Ukraine, insisting though that they were not the same as regular troops.[80] In February 2019, 7% of Ukraine's territory was classified by the Ukrainian government as temporarily occupied territories.[81]

Contents

Background

Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev transferred Crimea, which has been home to the Russian/Soviet Black Sea Fleet,[82] from the Russian SFSR to the Ukrainian SSR in 1954. This event was viewed as an insignificant "symbolic gesture", as both republics were a part of the Soviet Union and answerable to the government in Moscow.[83][84][85] Crimean autonomy was re-established in 1991 after a referendum, just prior to dissolution of the Soviet Union.[86]

Despite being an independent country since 1991, as a former Soviet republic, Ukraine has been perceived by Russia as being part of its sphere of influence. Iulian Chifu and his co-authors claim that in regard to Ukraine, Russia pursues a modernized version of the Brezhnev Doctrine on "limited sovereignty", which dictates that the sovereignty of Ukraine cannot be larger than that of the Warsaw Pact prior to the demise of the Soviet sphere of influence.[87] This claim is based on statements of Russian leaders that possible integration of Ukraine into NATO would jeopardize Russia's national security.[88][89][87]

Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, both Ukraine and Russia continued to retain very close ties for decades. At the same time, there were several sticking points, most importantly Ukraine's significant nuclear arsenal, which Ukraine agreed to abandon in the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances (December 1994) on the condition that Russia (and the other signatories) would issue an assurance against threats or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine. In 1999, Russia was one of signatories of Charter for European Security, where it "reaffirmed the inherent right of each and every participating State to be free to choose or change its security arrangements, including treaties of alliance, as they evolve".[90]

A second point was the division of the Black Sea Fleet. Ukraine agreed to lease a number of naval facilities including those in Sevastopol so that the Russian Black Sea fleet could continue to be based there together with Ukrainian naval forces. Starting in 1993, through the 1990s and 2000s, Ukraine and Russia engaged in several gas disputes.[91] In 2001, Ukraine, along with Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Moldova, formed a group called GUAM Organization for Democracy and Economic Development, which was seen by Russia as a direct challenge to the CIS, the Russian-dominated trade group established after the collapse of the Soviet Union.[92] Russia was further irritated by the Orange Revolution of 2004, which saw the pro-European Viktor Yushchenko elected president instead of the pro-Russian[93] Viktor Yanukovych. Moreover, Ukraine continued to increase its cooperation with NATO, deploying the third-largest contingent of troops to Iraq in 2004, as well as dedicating peacekeepers to NATO missions such as the ISAF force in Afghanistan and KFOR in Kosovo.

Yanukovych was elected in 2010 and Russia felt that many ties with Ukraine could be repaired. Prior to this, Ukraine had not renewed the lease of naval facilities in Crimea, meaning that Russian troops would have to leave Crimea by 2017. However, Yanukovych signed a new lease and expanded allowable troop presence as well as allowing troops to train in the Kerch peninsula.[94] Many in Ukraine viewed the extension as unconstitutional because Ukraine's constitution states that no permanent foreign troops shall be stationed in Ukraine after the Sevastopol treaty expired. Yulia Tymoshenko, the main opposition figure of Yanukovych, was jailed on charges that were called political persecution by international observers, leading to further dissatisfaction with the government. In November 2013, Viktor Yanukovych declined to sign an association agreement with the European Union, a treaty that had been in development for several years and one that Yanukovych had earlier approved of.[95] Yanukovych instead favoured closer ties with Russia.

In September 2013, Russia warned that if Ukraine went ahead with a planned free trade agreement with the European Union, it would face financial catastrophe and possibly the collapse of the state.[96] Sergey Glazyev, adviser to President Vladimir Putin, said, "Ukrainian authorities are making a huge mistake if they think that the Russian reaction will become neutral in a few years from now. This will not happen." Russia had already imposed import restrictions on certain Ukrainian products and Glazyev did not rule out further sanctions if the agreement was signed. Glazyev allowed for the possibility of separatist movements springing up in the Russian-speaking east and south of Ukraine. He insisted that, if Ukraine signed the agreement, it would violate the bilateral treaty on strategic partnership and friendship with Russia that delineates the countries borders. Russia would no longer guarantee Ukraine's status as a state and could possibly intervene if pro-Russian regions of the country appealed directly to Russia.[96]

Euromaidan and Anti-Maidan

Following months of protests as part of the Euromaidan movement, on 21 February 2014 Yanukovych and the leaders of the parliamentary opposition signed a settlement agreement that called for early elections. The following day, Yanukovych fled from the capital ahead of an impeachment vote that stripped him of his powers as president.[97][98][99][100] On 27 February, an interim government was established and early presidential elections were scheduled. The following day, Yanukovych resurfaced in Russia and in a press conference declared that he remained the acting president of Ukraine, just as Russia was beginning its overt military campaign in Crimea.

Leaders of Russian-speaking eastern regions of Ukraine declared continuing loyalty to Yanukovych,[98][101] causing the 2014 pro-Russian unrest in Ukraine.

On 23 February, the parliament adopted a bill to repeal the 2012 law which gave Russian language an official status.[102] The bill was not enacted,[103] however, the proposal provoked negative reactions in the Russian-speaking regions of Ukraine,[104] intensified by Russian media saying that the ethnic Russian population were in imminent danger.[105]

In the meantime, on the morning of 27 February, Berkut special police units from Crimea and other regions of Ukraine, which had been dissolved on 25 February, seized checkpoints on the Isthmus of Perekop and Chonhar peninsula.[106][107] According to Ukrainian MP Hennadiy Moskal, former chief of the Crimean police, these Berkut had armored personnel carriers, grenade launchers, assault rifles, machine guns, and other weapons.[107] Since then, they have controlled all land traffic between Crimea and continental Ukraine.[107]

On 7 February 2014, a leaked audio revealed that United States Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland in Kyiv, was weighing in on the make-up of the next Ukrainian government. Nuland told United States Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt that she did not think Vitaly Klitschko should be in a new government. The audio clip was first posted on Twitter by Dmitry Loskutov, an aide to Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin.[108]

Russian financing of militias and the Glazyev tapes

In August 2016, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) published the first batch of telephone intercepts from 2014 of Sergey Glazyev (Russian presidential adviser), Konstantin Zatulin, and other people in which they discussed covert funding of pro-Russian activists in Eastern Ukraine, the occupation of administration buildings and other actions that in due course led to the armed conflict.[109] Glazyev refused to deny the authenticity of the intercepts, while Zatulin confirmed they were real but "taken out of context".[110] Further batches were presented as evidence during criminal proceedings against former president Yanukovych in Kyiv's Obolon court between 2017 and 2018.[111]

As early as February 2014, Glazyev was giving direct instructions to various pro-Russian parties in Ukraine to instigate unrest in Donetsk, Kharkiv, Zaporizhia, and Odessa. Glazyev instructs various pro-Russian actors on the necessity of taking over local administration offices, what to do after they were taken over, how to formulate their demands and makes various promises about support from Russia, including "sending our guys".[112][113][114]

Konstantin Zatulin: ... That's the main story. I want to say about other regions – we have financed Kharkiv, financed Odesa.

...

Sergey Glazyev: Look, the situation in the process. Kharkiv Regional State Administration has already been stormed, in Donetsk the Regional State Administration has been stormed. It is necessary to storm Regional State Administration and gather regional deputies there!

...

Sergey Glazyev: It is very important that people appeal to Putin. Mass appeals directly to him with a request to protect, an appeal to Russia, etc. This appeal has been already in your meeting.

...

Denis Yatsyuk: So we after storming building of Regional State Administration we gather a session of the Regional State Administration, right? We invite MPs and force them to vote? ...
— Sergey Glazyev et al., "English translation of audio evidence of the involvement of Putin's adviser Glazyev and other Russian politicians in the war in Ukraine", UAPosition.com

In further calls recorded in February and March 2014, Glazyev points out that the "peninsula 't have its own electricity, water, or gas" and a "quick and effective" solution would be expansion to the north. According to Ukrainian journalists, this indicates that the plans for military intervention in Donbas to form a Russia-controlled puppet state of Novorossiya to ensure supplies to annexed Crimea was discussed long before the conflict actually started in April. Some also pointed out the similarity of the planned Novorossiya territory to the previous ephemeric project of South-East Ukrainian Autonomous Republic proposed briefly in 2004 by pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine.[111]

On 4 March 2014, Russian permanent representative to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin presented a photocopy of a letter signed by Viktor Yanukovych on 1 March 2014, asking that Russian president Vladimir Putin use Russian armed forces to "restore the rule of law, peace, order, stability and protection of the population of Ukraine".[115] Both houses of the Russian parliament voted on 1 March to give President Putin the right to use Russian troops in Crimea.[116][117] On 24 June Vladimir Putin asked the Russian parliament to cancel the resolution on use of Russian forces in Ukraine.[118] The next day the Federation Council voted to repeal its previous decision, making it illegal to use Russian organized military forces in Ukraine.[119]

Russian bases in Crimea

At the onset of its conflict, Russia had roughly 12,000 military personnel in the Black Sea Fleet,[105] located in several localities throughout Crimean peninsula like Sevastopol, Kacha, Hvardiiske, Simferopol Raion, Sarych and several others. The disposition of the Russian armed forces in Crimea was not disclosed clearly to the public which led to several incidents like the 2005 conflict near Sarych cape lighthouse.[not in citation given][120] Russian presence was allowed by the basing and transit agreement with Ukraine. According to the agreements Russian military component in Crimea was constrained, including a maximum of 25,000 troops, the requirement to respect the sovereignty of Ukraine, honor its legislation and not interfere in the internal affairs of the country, and show their "military identification cards" when crossing the international border and their operations beyond designated deployment sites were permitted only after coordination with the competent agencies of Ukraine.[121] Early in the conflict, the agreement's sizeable troop limit allowed Russia to significantly reinforce its military presence under the plausible guise of security concern, deploy special forces and other required capabilities to conduct the operation in Crimea.[105]

According to the original treaty on division of the Soviet Black Sea Fleet signed in 1997, the Russian Federation was allowed to have its military bases in Crimea until 2017, after which it had to evacuate all its military units including its portion of the Black Sea Fleet out of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol. A Russian construction project to re-home to fleet in Novorossiysk launched in 2005 and was expected to be fully completed by 2020, but as of 2010, the project faced major budget cuts and construction delays.[122] On 21 April 2010, the former President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych signed a new deal known as the Kharkiv Pact extending the stay until 2042 with an option to renew and in return receiving some discount on gas delivered from the Russian Federation[123] (see 2009 Russia–Ukraine gas dispute). The Kharkiv Pact was rather an update to complex of several fundamental treaties that were signed in 1990s between prime ministers of both countries Viktor Chernomyrdin (Russia) and Pavlo Lazarenko (Ukraine) and presidents Boris Yeltsin (Russia) and Leonid Kuchma (Ukraine).[124][125][126][127][non-primary source needed] The Constitution of Ukraine, whilst having a general prohibition of a deployment of foreign bases on the country's soil, originally also had a transitional provision, which allowed the use of existing military bases on the territory of Ukraine for the temporary stationing of foreign military formations. This permitted Russian military to keep its basing in Crimea as an "existing military base". The constitutional provision on "[pre]-existing bases" was revoked in 2019,[128] but by that time Russia had already annexed Crimea and withdrew from the basing treaties unilaterally.

History

Annexation of Crimea

File:2014 Крим.PNG
Blockade of military units of the Armed Forces of Ukraine during the capture of Crimea by Russia in February–March 2014
Russian troops blocking the Ukrainian military base in Perevalne

Russia's decision to annex Crimea was made on 20 February 2014.[129][130][131][132] On 22 and 23 February, Russian troops and special forces began moving into Crimea through Novorossiysk.[131] On 27 February, Russian forces without insignias began taking control of the Crimean Peninsula.[133] They took hold of strategic positions and captured the Crimean Parliament, raising a Russian flag. Security checkpoints were used to cut the Crimean Peninsula off from the rest of Ukraine and to restrict movement within the territory.[134][135][136][137] In the following days, Russian soldiers secured key airports and a communications center.[138] Additionally, the use of cyberwarfare led to websites associated with the official Ukrainian Government websites, the news media, as well as social media shutting down. Cyber attacks also disabled or gained access to the mobile phones of Ukrainian officials and parliament members over the next few days, further severing lines of communication.[139]

On 1 March, the Russian legislature approved the use of armed forces, leading to an influx of Russian troops and military hardware into the peninsula.[138] In the following days, all remaining Ukrainian military bases and installations were surrounded and besieged, including the Southern Naval Base. After Russia formally annexed the peninsula on 18 March, Ukrainian military bases and ships were stormed by Russian forces. On 24 March, Ukraine ordered troops to withdraw; by 30 March, all Ukrainian forces had left the peninsula.

On 15 April, the Ukrainian parliament declared Crimea a territory temporarily occupied by Russia.[140] After the annexation, the Russian government increased its military presence in the region and leveraged nuclear threats to solidify the new status quo on the ground.[141] Russian president Vladimir Putin said that a Russian military task force would be established in Crimea.[142] In November, NATO stated that it believed Russia was deploying nuclear-capable weapons to Crimea.[143]

In December 2014, the Ukrainian Border Guard Service announced that Russian troops had begun to withdraw from the territory of Kherson Oblast. Russian troops occupied parts of the Arabat Spit and several of the islands surrounding the Syvash, which are geographically parts of Crimea but are administratively part of Kherson Oblast. The village of Strilkove, which is part of Henichesk Raion, was occupied by Russian troops; the village housed an important gas distribution center. Russian forces stated they took over the gas distribution center to prevent terrorist attacks. Later, Russian forces withdrew from southern Kherson but continued to occupy the gas distribution center outside Strilkove. The withdrawal from Kherson ended nearly 10 months of Russian occupation of the region. Ukraine's border guards stated that the areas under Russian occupation will have to be checked for mines before they can return to their positions.[144][145]

Andrey Illarionov, a former economic advisor to Vladimir Putin, said in a speech to NATO on 31 May 2014, that some technologies used during the Russo-Georgian War had been updated and were again being used in Ukraine. According to Illarionov, since the Russian military operation in Crimea began on 20 February 2014, Russian propaganda could not argue that the Russian attack was the result of the Euromaidan protests. Illarionov said that the war in Ukraine did not happen "all of a sudden", but was pre-planned and that the preparations began as early as 2003.[146] He later stated that one of the Russian plans envisaged war with Ukraine in 2015 after a presidential election, but the Euromaidan protests accelerated the confrontation.[147]

War in Donbas (2014–2015)

Pro-Russian unrest

The initial protests across southern and eastern Ukraine were largely native expressions of discontent with the new Ukrainian government.[148] Russian involvement at this stage was limited to its voicing of support for the demonstrations, and the emergence of the separatists in Donetsk and Luhansk began as a small fringe group of the protesters, independent of Russian control.[148][149] Russia would go on to take advantage of this, however, to launch a co-ordinated political and military campaign against Ukraine, as part of the broader Russo-Ukrainian War.[148][150] Russian president Vladimir Putin gave legitimacy to the nascent separatist movement when he described the Donbas as part of the historic "New Russia" (Novorossiya) region, and issued a statement of bewilderment as how the region had ever become part of Ukraine in 1922 with the foundation of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic.[151] When the Ukrainian authorities cracked down on the pro-Russian protests and arrested local separatist leaders in early March, these were replaced by people with ties to the Russian security services and interests in Russian businesses, probably by order of Russian intelligence.[152] By April 2014, Russians citizens had taken control of the separatist movement, and were supported by volunteers and materiel from Russia, including Chechen and Cossack militants.[153][154][155][156] According to DPR insurgent commander Igor Girkin, without this support in April, the movement would have fizzled out, as in it did in Kharkiv and Odessa.[157] The disputed referendum on the status of Donetsk Oblast was held on 11 May.[158][159][160]

These demonstrations, which followed the annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation, and which were part of a wider group of concurrent pro-Russian protests across southern and eastern Ukraine, escalated into an armed conflict between the Russia-backed separatist forces of the self-declared Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics (DPR and LPR respectively), and the Ukrainian government.[161][162] The SBU claimed key commanders of the rebel movement during the beginning of the conflict, including Igor Strelkov and Igor Bezler were Russian agents.[163][164] The prime minister of Donetsk People's Republic from May to August 2014 was a Russian citizen Alexander Borodai.[155] From August 2014 all top positions in Donetsk and Luhansk have been held by Ukrainian citizens.[165][154] Russian volunteers are reported to make up from 15% to 80% of the combatants,[155][166][167][168][169] with many claimed to be former military personnel.[170][171] Recruitment for the Donbas insurgents was performed openly in Russian cities using private or voyenkomat facilities, as was confirmed by a number of Russian media.[170][172]

Economic and material circumstances in Donbas had generated neither necessary nor sufficient conditions for a locally rooted, internally driven armed conflict. The role of the Kremlin's military intervention was paramount for the commencement of hostilities.[173]

March–July 2014

File:RU and UA forces, 2014.02 (February) - EN 01.jpg
Russian military buildup along Ukraine's eastern border in February–March 2014
The Donbas status referendums in May 2014 were not officially recognised by the Ukrainian government or any UN member state.[158]

In late March, Russia continued the buildup of military forces near the Ukrainian eastern border, reaching 30–40,000 troops by April.[174][105] The deployment was likely used to threaten escalation and stymie Ukraine's response to unfolding events.[105] Concerns were expressed that Russia may again be readying an incursion into Ukraine following its annexation of Crimea.[174] This threat forced Ukraine to divert force deployment to its borders instead of the conflict zone.[105]

In April, armed conflict begins in eastern Ukraine between Russian-backed separatist forces and Ukrainian government. The separatists declared the People's Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk. From 6 April, Militant occupied government buildings in many cities, as well as, taking control of border crossings to Russia, transport hubs, broadcasting center, and other strategic infrastructure. Faced with continued expansion of separatist territorial control, on 15 April the Ukrainian interim government launched an "Anti-Terrorist Operation" (ATO), however, Ukrainian military and security services were poorly prepared and ill-positioned and the operation quickly stalled.[175] By the end of April, the Ukrainian Government announced it had no full control of the provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk, being on "full combat alert" against a possible Russian invasion and reinstatement of conscription to the armed forces.[176] Through May, Ukrainian campaign focused on containing the separatists by securing key positions around the ETO zone to position the military for a decisive offensive against the rebel enclave once Ukraine's national mobilization complete.

As conflict between the separatists and the Ukrainian government escalated in May, Russia began to employ a "hybrid approach", deploying a combination of disinformation tactics, irregular fighters, regular Russian troops, and conventional military support to support the separatists and destabilise the Donbas region.[177][178][179] The First Battle of Donetsk Airport that followed the Ukrainian presidential elections marked a turning point in conflict; it was the first battle between the separatists and the Ukrainian government that involved large amounts of Russian volunteers.[180][181]:15 According to the Ukrainian government, at the height of the conflict in the summer of 2014, Russian paramilitaries were reported to make up between 15% to 80% of the combatants.[155] From June Russia trickled in arms, armor, and munitions to the separatist forces.

In June–July, the ATO operation began to regain ground, utilizing its numbers and air power to steadily encircle and push out the separatists re-taking several towns and key positions in Donbas, including the separatist stronghold of Sloviansk and the key port city of Mariupol.

On 17 July a Russian Buk anti-aircraft missile shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. All 283 passengers and 15 crew were killed.[182]

By the end of July, they were pushing into Donetsk and Luhansk cities, to cut off supply routes between the two, isolating Donetsk and thought to restore control of the Russo-Ukrainian border. By 28 July, the strategic heights of Savur-Mohyla were under Ukrainian control, along with the town of Debaltseve an important railroad hub.[183] These operational successes of Ukrainian forces threatened the very existence of Russian-supported DPR and LPR statelets, prompting Russian cross-border artillery shelling targeted against advancing Ukrainian troops on their own soil, from mid-July onwards.

American and Ukrainian officials said they had evidence of Russian interference in Ukraine, including intercepted communications between Russian officials and Donbas insurgents.[184][185]

Ukrainian media have described the well-organised and well-armed pro-Russian militants as similar to those which occupied regions of Crimea during the Crimean crisis.[186][187] The former deputy Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Admiral Ihor Kabanenko, said that the militants are Russian military reconnaissance and sabotage units.[188] Arsen Avakov stated that the militants in Krasnyi Lyman used Russian-made AK-100 series assault rifles fitted with grenade launchers, and that such weapons are only issued in the Russian Federation. "The Government of Ukraine is considering the facts of today as a manifestation of external aggression by Russia," said Avakov.[189] Militants in Sloviansk arrived in military lorries without license plates.[190] A reporter from Russia's Novaya Gazeta, having visited separatist artillery positions in Avdeyevka, wrote that in his opinion "it's impossible that the cannons are handled by volunteers" as they require a trained and experienced team, including observers and adjustment experts.[191]

David Patrikarakos, a correspondent for the New Statesman said the following: "While at the other protests/occupations there were armed men and lots of ordinary people, here it almost universally armed and masked men in full military dress. Automatic weapons are everywhere. Clearly a professional military is here. There's the usual smattering of local militia with bats and sticks but also a military presence. Of that there is no doubt."[192] Zbigniew Brzezinski, a former American National Security Advisor, said that the events in the Donbas were similar to events in Crimea, which led to its annexation by Russia, and noted that Russia acted similarly.[193]

In April 2014, a US State Department spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, said, "There has been broad unity in the international community about the connection between Russia and some of the armed militants in eastern Ukraine".[194] The Ukrainian government released photos of soldiers in eastern Ukraine, which the US State Department said showed that some of the fighters were Russian special forces.[195][196] US Secretary of State John Kerry said the militants "were equipped with specialized Russian weapons and the same uniforms as those worn by the Russian forces that invaded Crimea."[197] The US ambassador to the United Nations said the attacks in Sloviansk were "professional," "coordinated", and that there was "nothing grass-roots seeming about it".[198] The British foreign secretary, William Hague, stated, "I don't think denials of Russian involvement have a shred of credibility, ... The forces involved are well armed, well trained, well equipped, well coordinated, behaving in exactly the same way as what turned out to be Russian forces behaved in Crimea."[199] The commander of NATO operations in Europe, Philip M. Breedlove, assessed that soldiers appeared to be highly trained and not a spontaneously formed local militia, and that "what is happening in eastern Ukraine is a military operation that is well planned and organized and we assess that it is being carried out at the direction of Russia."[200]

The New York Times journalists interviewed Sloviansk militants and found no clear link of Russian support: "There was no clear Russian link in the 12th Company's arsenal, but it was not possible to confirm the rebels' descriptions of the sources of their money and equipment."[201] Commenting on the presence of the Vostok Battalion within insurgent ranks, Denis Pushilin, self-declared Chairman of the People's Soviet of the Donetsk People's Republic, said on 30 May, "It's simply that there were no volunteers [from Russia] before, and now they have begun to arrive – and not only from Russia."[202]

A significant number of Russian citizens, many veterans or ultranationalists, are currently involved in the ongoing armed conflict, a fact acknowledged by separatist leaders. Carol Saivetz, Russian specialist for the Security Studies Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, described the role of Russian soldiers as 'almost certainly' proceeding with the blessing and backing of the Russian state, "even if the Russians are indeed volunteers rather than serving military men".[203]

August–September 2014

June–August progression map

After a series of military defeats and setbacks for the Donetsk and Luhansk separatists, who united under the banner of "Novorossiya", a term Russian President Vladimir Putin used to describe southeastern Ukraine,[204][205] Russia dispatched what it called a "humanitarian convoy" of trucks across the Russo-Ukrainian border in mid-August 2014. Ukraine reacted to the move by calling it a "direct invasion".[206] Ukraine's National Security and Defence Council published a report on the number and contents of these convoys, claiming they were arriving almost daily in November (up to 9 convoys on 30 November) and their contents were mainly arms and ammunition. In total, in November there were 1,903 trucks crossing the border from Russia to Donbas, 20 buses with soldiers or volunteers, 402 armoured personnel carriers, 256 tanks, 138 "Grad" launchers, 42 cannons and howitzers, 35 self-propelled artillery vehicles, 5 "Buk" launchers, 4 "Uragan" launchers, 4 "Buratino" flamethrowers, 6 pontoon bridge trucks, 5 "Taran" radio interception systems, 5 armoured recovery vehicles, 3 radiolocation systems, 2 truck cranes, 1 track layer vehicle, 1 radiolocation station, unknown number of "Rtut-BM" electronic warfare systems, 242 fuel tankers and 205 light off-road vehicles and vans.[207]

In early August, according to Igor Strelkov, Russian servicemen, supposedly on "vacation" from the army, began to arrive in Donbas.[208]

By August 2014, the Ukrainian "Anti-Terrorist Operation" was able to vastly shrink the territory under the control of the pro-Russian forces, and came close to regaining control of the Russo-Ukrainian border.[209] Igor Girkin urged Russian military intervention, and said that the combat inexperience of his irregular forces, along with recruitment difficulties amongst the local population in Donetsk Oblast had caused the setbacks. He addressed Russian president Vladimir Putin, saying that: "Losing this war on the territory that President Vladimir Putin personally named New Russia would threaten the Kremlin's power and, personally, the power of the president".[210] In response to the deteriorating situation in the Donbas, Russia abandoned its hybrid approach, and began a conventional invasion of the region.[209][211] The first sign of this invasion was 25 August 2014 capture of a group of Russian paratroopers on active service in Ukrainian territory by the Ukrainian security service (SBU).[212] The SBU released photographs of them, and their names.[213] On the following day, the Russian defence Ministry said these soldiers had crossed the border "by accident".[214][215][216] According to Nikolai Mitrokhin's estimates, by mid-August 2014 during the Battle of Ilovaisk, there were between 20,000 and 25,000 troops fighting in the Donbas on the separatist side, and only between 40% and 45% were "locals".[217]

Journalist Tim Judah wrote in the NYR blog about the scale of the devastation suffered by Ukrainian forces in southeastern Ukraine over the last week of August 2014 that it amounted "to a catastrophic defeat and will long be remembered by embittered Ukrainians as among the darkest days of their history." The scale of the destruction achieved in several ambushes revealed "that those attacking the pro-government forces were highly professional and using very powerful weapons." The fighting in Ilovaysk had begun on 7 August when units from three Ukrainian volunteer militias and the police attempted to take it back from rebel control. Then, on 28 August, the rebels were able to launch a major offensive, with help from elsewhere, including Donetsk—though "not Russia," according to Commander Givi, the head of rebel forces there. By 1 September it was all over and the Ukrainians had been decisively defeated. Commander Givi said the ambushed forces were militias, not regular soldiers, whose numbers had been boosted, 'by foreigners, including Czechs, Hungarians, and "niggers." '[218]

On 13 August, members of the Russian Human Rights Commission stated that over 100 Russian soldiers had been killed in the fighting in Ukraine and inquired why they were there.[219]

A convoy of military vehicles, including armoured personnel carriers, with official Russian military plates crossed into Ukraine near the militant-controlled Izvaryne border crossing on 14 August.[220][221] The Ukrainian government later announced that they had destroyed most of the armoured column with artillery. Secretary General of NATO Anders Fogh Rasmussen said this incident was a "clear demonstration of continued Russian involvement in the destabilisation of eastern Ukraine".[222] The same day, Russian President Vladimir Putin, speaking to Russian ministers and Crimean parliamentarians on a visit to Crimea, undertook to do everything he could to end the conflict in Ukraine, saying Russia needed to build calmly and with dignity, not by confrontation and war which isolated it from the rest of the world. The comments came as international sanctions against Russia were being stepped up.[223]

Multiple reports indicated separatist militias were receiving reinforcements that allowed them to turn the tables on government forces.[224] Armoured columns coming from Russia also pushed into southern Donetsk Oblast and reportedly captured the town of Novoazovsk, clashing with Ukrainian forces and opening a new front in the Donbas conflict.[225][226]

On 22 August 2014, according to NATO officials, Russia moved self-propelled artillery onto the territory of Ukraine.[227]

On 24 August 2014, President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko referred to the anti-terrorist operation (ATO) as Ukraine's "Patriotic War of 2014" and a war against "external aggression".[228][229] The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine labeled the conflict an invasion on 27 August 2014.[230] The same day, Amvrosiivka was occupied by Russian paratroopers,[231] supported by 250 armoured vehicles and artillery pieces.[232] Ten Russian paratroopers of the 331st Guards Airborne Regiment, military unit 71211 from Kostroma, were captured in Dzerkalne that day, a village near Amvrosiivka, 20 kilometres (12 mi) from the border,[233] after their armoured vehicles were hit by Ukrainian artillery. On 25 August, the Security Service of Ukraine reported about the captured paratroopers, claiming they've crossed Ukrainian border in the night of 23 August.[234] The SBU also released their photos and names.[235] The next day, the Russian Ministry of Defence said that they had crossed the border "by accident".[233][236]

On 25 August, a column of Russian tanks and military vehicles was reported to have crossed into Ukraine in the southeast, near the town of Novoazovsk located on the Azov sea coast, and headed towards Ukrainian-held Mariupol,[237][225][238][239][240] in an area that had not seen pro-Russian presence for weeks.[241] The Bellingcat's investigation reveals some details of this operation.[242] Russian forces captured the city of Novoazovsk.[243] and Russian soldiers began arresting and deporting to unknown locations all Ukrainians who did not have an address registered within the town.[244] Pro-Ukrainian anti-war protests took place in Mariupol which was threatened by Russian troops.[244][245] The UN Security Council called an emergency meeting to discuss the situation.[246]

Residents of Kyiv with Sich Battalion volunteers on 26 August 2014

On 26 August 2014, a mixed column composed of at least 3 T-72B1s and a lone T-72BM was identified on a video from Sverdlovsk, Ukraine by the International Institute for Strategic Studies. The sighting undermined Russia's attempts to maintain plausible deniability over the issue of supplying tanks and other arms to the separatists. Russia continuously claimed that any tanks operated by the separatists must have been captured from Ukraine's own army. The T-72BM is in service with the Russian Army in large numbers. This modernized T-72 is not known to have been exported to nor operated by any other country.[247] Reuters found other tanks of this type near Horbatenko in October.[248] In November, the United Kingdom's embassy in Ukraine also published an infographic demonstrating specific features of the T-72 tanks used by separatists not present in tanks held by Ukrainian army, addressing it to "help Russia recognize its own tanks".[249] The equipment included for example Thales Optronics thermal vision instruments exported to Russia between 2007 and 2012 only.[250]

On 27 August, two columns of Russian tanks entered Ukrainian territory in support of the pro-Russian separatists in Donetsk and Luhansk and engaged Ukrainian border forces, but US officials were reluctant to declare that Russia had begun invading Ukraine.[251] NATO officials stated that over 1,000 Russian troops were operating inside Ukraine, but termed the incident an incursion rather than an invasion.[252] The Russian government denied these claims. NATO published satellite photos which it said showed the presence of Russian troops within Ukrainian territory.[219] The pro-Russian separatists admitted that Russian troops were fighting alongside them, stating that this was "no secret", but that the Russian troops were just soldiers who preferred to take their vacations fighting in Ukraine rather than "on the beach". The Prime Minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic stated that 3,000 to 4,000 Russian troops had fought in separatist ranks and that most of them had not returned to Russia, having continued to fight in Ukraine.[253]

On 28 August, members of the commission called the presence of Russian troops on Ukrainian soil "an outright invasion".[254] The same day, Ukraine ordered national mandatory conscription.[255] Dutch Brigadier-General Nico Tak, head of NATO's crisis management centre, said that "over 1,000 Russian troops are now operating inside Ukraine".[256]

In late August, NATO released satellite images which it considered to be evidence of Russian operations inside Ukraine with sophisticated weaponry,[257] and after the setbacks[65] of Ukrainian forces by early September, it was evident Russia had sent soldiers and armour across the border and locals acknowledged the role of Putin and Russian soldiers in effecting a reversal of fortunes.[19][61][62][258][259]

On 29 August, after Ukrainian forces agreed to surrender Ilovaisk, they were bombarded by Russian forces while they evacuated through a "green corridor." The assault on the troops who were marked with white flags was variously described as a "massacre."[19][260][261][262][263][264] At least 100 were killed.[260] Around 29–30 August, Russian tanks destroyed "virtually every house" in Novosvitlivka, a suburb village of Luhansk, according to Ukrainian military spokesman Andriy Lysenko.[265] On 31 August, the Russian media reported that ten Russian paratroopers captured inside Ukraine had returned home following a troop exchange. The 64 Ukrainian troops provided in exchange were captured after entering Russia to escape the upsurge in fighting.[266] Russia claimed that the Russian troops had mistakenly crossed an unmarked area of the border while on patrol.[267] Ukraine released videos of captured Russian soldiers which challenged Russia's claim that it had nothing to do with the conflict.[268]

The official response of the Chief Military Prosecutor's Office of Russia[ru], which confirmed the death of Pskov paratroopers. The circumstances of the death are designated as "state secret".[269]

The 76th Guards Air Assault Division based in Pskov allegedly entered Ukrainian territory in August and engaged in a skirmish near Luhansk, suffering 80 dead. The Ukrainian Defence Ministry said that they had seized two of the unit's armoured vehicles near Luhansk city, and reported about another three tanks and two armoured vehicles of pro-Russian forces destroyed in other regions.[270][271] The Russian government denied the skirmish took place[271] but on 18 August, the 76th Guards Air Assault Division was awarded with Order of Suvorov, one of Russia's highest awards, by Russian minister of defence Sergey Shoigu for the "successful completion of military missions" and "courage and heroism".[271] Russian media highlighted that the medal is awarded exclusively for combat operations and reported that a large number of soldiers from this division had died in Ukraine just days before, but their burials were conducted in secret.[272][273][274] Some Russian media, such as Pskovskaya Guberniya,[275] reported that Russian paratroopers may have been killed in Ukraine. Journalists traveled to Pskov, the reported burial location of the troops, to investigate. Multiple reporters said they had been attacked or threatened there, and that the attackers erased several camera memory cards.[276] Pskovskaya Guberniya revealed transcripts of phone conversations between Russian soldiers being treated in a Pskov hospital for wounds received while fighting in Ukraine. The soldiers reveal that they were sent to the war, but told by their officers that they were going on "an exercise".[277][278]

According to Bellingcat, Russian military vehicles crossing the border of Ukraine and artillery positions close to the Ukrainian borders are clearly visible on satellite photos from 23 August 2014.[279] A Bellingcat contributor published a series of investigations revealing the involvement of the Russian Northern Fleet Coastal troops units, 200th Motor Rifle Brigade and 61st Naval Infantry Brigade, which had participated in combats in Luhansk region: Troops of the 200th Motor Rifle Brigade fought in a battle of Luhansk Airport,[280][281] and later in October in clashes for 32nd checkpoint.[282] Marines of the 61st Naval Infantry Brigade were spotted in Luhansk and took part in fights in villages nearby.[283]

The speaker of Russia's upper house of parliament and Russian state television channels acknowledged that Russian soldiers entered Ukraine, but referred to them as "volunteers".[284] A reporter for Novaya Gazeta, an opposition newspaper in Russia, stated that the Russian military leadership paid soldiers to resign their commissions and fight in Ukraine in the early summer of 2014, and then began ordering soldiers into Ukraine. This reporter mentioned knowledge of at least one case when soldiers who refused were threatened with prosecution.[285] Russian opposition MP Lev Shlosberg made similar statements, although he said combatants from his country are "regular Russian troops", disguised as units of the DPR and LPR.[286] In early September 2014, Russian state-owned television channels reported on the funerals of Russian soldiers who died in Ukraine during the war in Donbas, but described them as "volunteers" fighting for the "Russian world". Valentina Matviyenko, a top politician in the ruling United Russia party, also praised "volunteers" fighting in "our fraternal nation", referring to Ukraine.[284] Russian state television for the first time showed the funeral of a soldier killed fighting in east Ukraine. State-controlled TV station Channel One showed the burial of paratrooper Anatoly Travkin in the central Russian city of Kostroma. The broadcaster said Travkin had not told his wife or commanders about his decision to fight alongside pro-Russia rebels battling government forces. "Officially he just went on leave", the news reader said.[287]

Lindsey Hilsum wrote in the Channel 4 news blog that in early September Ukrainian troops at Dmytrivka came under attack from BM-30 Smerch rockets from Russia.[288] On 4 September, she wrote of rumours that Ukrainian troops who had been shelling Luhansk for weeks were retreating west and that Russian soldiers with heavy armour were reported to have come over the border to back up the rebels.[289] Hilsum also wrote about the total destruction of Luhansk International Airport which was being used as a base by the Ukrainian forces to shell Luhansk, probably because the Russians decided to "turn the tide" – the terminal building and everything around was utterly destroyed. Forces from Azerbaijan, Belarus and Tajikistan who were fighting on the side of the rebels allowed themselves to be filmed.[290]

Mariupol offensive

On 3 September 2014, a Sky News team filmed groups of troops near Novoazovsk wearing modern combat gear typical for Russian units and traveling in new military vehicles with number plates and other markings removed. Specialists consulted by the journalists identified parts of the equipment (uniform, rifles) as currently used by Russian ground forces and paratroopers.[291]

Also on, 3 September, Ukrainian President Poroshenko said he had reached a "permanent ceasefire" agreement with Russian President Putin.[292] Russia denied the ceasefire agreement took place, denying being party to the conflict at all, adding that "they only discussed how to settle the conflict".[293][294] Poroshenko then backtracked from his previous statement about the agreement.[295][296]

The OSCE for the first time reported "light and heavy calibre shootings from the east and south-east areas which are also bordering Ukraine". The report also stated that the OSCE Observer Teams had seen an increase of military-style dressed men crossing the border in both directions, including ones with LPR and Novorossiya symbols and flags, and wounded being transported back to Russia.[297]

Mick Krever wrote on the CNN blog that on 5 September Russia's Permanent Representative to the OSCE, Andrey Kelin had said it was natural pro-Russian separatists "are going to liberate" Mariupol. Ukrainian forces stated that Russian intelligence groups had been spotted in the area. Kelin said 'there might be volunteers over there.'[298] On 4 September 2014, a NATO officer said there were several thousand regular Russian forces operating in Ukraine.[299]

On 5 September 2014, the ceasefire agreement called the Minsk Protocol, drew a line of demarcation between Ukraine and separatist-controlled portions of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts in the southeast of the country.

On 12 September 2014, The Guardian saw a Russian armoured personnel carrier in Lutuhyne.[300] The next day, it was reported that Moscow had sent a convoy of trucks delivering "aid" into Ukraine without Kyiv's consent. This convoy was not inspected by Ukraine or accompanied by the ICRC. Top Ukrainian leaders largely remained silent about the convoys after the ceasefire deal was reached. The "aid" was part of the 12-point Minsk agreement.[301][302]

In December 2014, Ukrainian hackers published a large cache of documents coming allegedly from a hacked server of Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs (MID). The documents originated from various departments coordinated by MID, such as local police, road police, emergency services etc. The cache included documents describing Russian military casualties arriving on 25 August to hospitals in the Rostov area after a battle "10 km northwest of the small village of Prognoi", which matched a battle in Krasnaya Talovka reported on the same date by Ukrainian side.[303]

November 2014 escalation

File:Minsk Protocol.svg
Map of LOC and buffer zone established by the Minsk Protocol on 5 September

On 7 November, NATO officials confirmed the continued invasion of Ukraine, with 32 Russian tanks, 16 howitzer cannons and 30 trucks of troops entering the country.[304] On 12 November, NATO reiterated the prevalence of Russian troops; US general Philip Breedlove said "Russian tanks, Russian artillery, Russian air defence systems and Russian combat troops" were sighted.[143] The Lithuanian Mission to the United Nations denounced Russia's 'undeclared war' on Ukraine.[305] Journalist Menahem Kahana took a picture showing a 1RL232 "Leopard" battlefield surveillance radar system in Torez, east of Donetsk; and Dutch freelance journalist Stefan Huijboom took pictures which showed the 1RL232 traveling with the 1RL239 "Lynx" radar system.[306]

Burnt-out remains of tanks and vehicles left after battles appeared to provide further evidence of Russian involvement.[307]

The Associated Press reported 80 unmarked military vehicles on the move in rebel-controlled areas. Three separate columns were observed, one near the main separatist stronghold of Donetsk and two outside the town of Snizhne. Several of the trucks were seen to be carrying troops.[68]

OSCE monitors further observed vehicles apparently used to transport soldiers' dead bodies crossing the Russian-Ukrainian border – in one case a vehicle marked with Russia's military code for soldiers killed in action crossed from Russia into Ukraine on 11 November 2014, and later returned.[70] On 23 January 2015 the Committee of Soldiers' Mothers warned about conscripts being sent to east Ukraine.[308] NATO said it had seen an increase in Russian tanks, artillery pieces and other heavy military equipment in eastern Ukraine and renewed its call for Moscow to withdraw its forces.[309]

The centre for Eurasian Strategic Intelligence estimated, based on "official statements and interrogation records of captured military men from these units, satellite surveillance data" as well as verified announcements from relatives and profiles in social networks, that over 30 Russian military units were taking part in the conflict in Ukraine. In total, over 8,000 soldiers had fought there at different moments.[310] The Chicago Council on Global Affairs stated that the Russian separatists enjoyed technical advantages over the Ukrainian army since the large inflow of advanced military systems in mid-2014: effective anti-aircraft weapons ("Buk", MANPADS) suppressed Ukrainian air strikes, Russian drones provided intelligence, and Russian secure communications system thwarted the Ukrainian side from communications intelligence. The Russian side also frequently employed electronic warfare systems that Ukraine lacked. Similar conclusions about the technical advantage of the Russian separatists were voiced by the Conflict Studies Research Centre.[311]

In November 2014, Igor Girkin gave a long interview to the extreme right-wing[312] nationalist newspaper Zavtra ("Tomorrow") where for the first time he released details about the beginning of the conflict in Donbas. According to Girkin, he was the one who "pulled the trigger of war" and it was necessary because acquisition of Crimea alone by Russia "did not make sense" and Crimea as part of the Novorossiya "would make the jewel in the crown of the Russian Empire". Girkin had been directed to Donbas by Sergey Aksyonov and he entered Ukraine with a group of 52 officers in April, initially taking Slavyansk, Kramatorsk and then other cities. Girkin also talked about the situation in August, when separatist forces were close to defeat and only a prompt intervention of Russian "leavers" (ironic term for "soldiers on leave") saved them. Their forces took command in the siege of Mariupol as well.[313][314] In response to internal criticism of the Russian government's policy of not officially recognizing Russian soldiers in Ukraine as fulfilling military service and leaving their families without any source of income if they are killed, president Vladimir Putin signed a new law in October entitling their families to a monthly compensation. Two new entitlement categories were added: "missing in action" and "declared dead" (as of 1 January 2016).[315][316]

Alexandr Negrebetskih, a deputy from the Russian city of Zlatoust who fought as a volunteer on the side of separatists, complained in an interview that "the locals run to Russia, and we have to come here as they are reluctant to defend their land" which resulted in his detachment being composed of 90% Russians and only 10% locals from Donetsk.[317]

In November, Lev Shlosberg published a response from a military attorney's office to questions he asked about the status of Pskov paratroopers killed in Ukraine in August. The office answered that the soldiers died while "fulfilling military service outside of their permanent dislocation units" (Pskov), but any further information on their orders or location of death was withheld as "classified". A political expert Alexey Makarkin compared these answers to those provided by Soviet ministry of defence during the Soviet–Afghan War when the USSR attempted to hide the scale of their casualties at any cost.[318]

Numerous reports of Russian troops and warfare on Ukrainian territory were raised in United Nations Security Council meetings. In 12 November meeting, the representative of the United Kingdom also accused Russia of intentionally constraining OSCE observatory missions' capabilities, pointing out that the observers were allowed to monitor only two kilometers of border between Ukraine and Russia, and drones deployed to extend their capabilities were being jammed or shot down.[319]

In November, Armament Research Services published a detailed report on arms used by both sides of the conflict, documenting a number of "flag items". Among vehicles, they documented the presence of T-72B Model 1989 and T-72B3 tanks, armoured vehicles of models BTR-82AM, MT-LB 6MA, MT-LBVM, and MT-LBVMK, and an Orlan-10 drone and 1RL239 radar vehicle. Among the ammunition, they documented 9K38 Igla (date of manufacture 2014), ASVK rifle (2012), RPG-18 rocket launchers (2011), 95Ya6 rocket boosters (2009) MRO-A (2008), 9M133 Kornet anti-tank weapons (2007), PPZR Grom (2007), MON-50 (2002), RPO-A (2002), PKP (2001), OG-7 (2001), and VSS rifles (1987). These weapons, mostly manufactured in Russia, were used by pro-Russian separatists in the conflict zone, but never "were in the Ukrainian government inventory prior to the outbreak of hostilities". The report also noted the use of PPZR Grom MANPADs, produced in Poland and never exported to Ukraine. They were however exported to Georgia in 2007 and subsequently captured by the Russian army during the Russian-Georgian War 2008.[320] Also in November, Pantsir-S1 units were observed in separatist-controlled areas near Novoazovsk, which were never part of the UAF's inventory.[321] Bellingcat maintains a dedicated database of geolocated images of military vehicles specific to each side of the conflict, mostly focused on Russian military equipment found on Ukrainian territory.[322]

2015 and ceasefire

File:2015-05-07. Репетиция парада Победы в Донецке 175.jpg
Pro-Russian rebels in Donetsk in May 2015. Ukraine declared the Russia-backed separatist republics from eastern Ukraine to be terrorist organizations.[323]

In January, Donetsk, Luhansk, and Mariupol were the three cities that represented the three fronts on which Ukraine was pressed by forces allegedly armed, trained and backed by Russia.[324]

In early January 2015, an image of a BPM-97 apparently inside Ukraine, in Luhansk, provided further evidence of Russian military vehicles inside Ukraine.[325][326]

Poroshenko spoke of a dangerous escalation on 21 January amid reports of more than 2,000 additional Russian troops crossing the border, together with 200 tanks and armed personnel carriers. He abbreviated his visit to the World Economic Forum in Davos because of his concerns at the worsening situation.[327] On 29 January, the chief of Ukraine's General Military Staff Viktor Muzhenko said 'the Ukrainian army is not engaged in combat operations against Russian regular units,' but that he had information about Russian civilian and military individuals fighting alongside 'illegal armed groups in combat activities.'[328] Reporting from DPR-controlled areas on 28 January, the OSCE observed on the outskirts of Khartsyzk, east of Donetsk, "a column of five T-72 tanks facing east, and immediately after, another column of four T-72 tanks moving east on the same road which was accompanied by four unmarked military trucks, type URAL. All vehicles and tanks were unmarked." It reported on an intensified movement of unmarked military trucks, covered with canvas.[329] After the shelling of residential areas in Mariupol, NATO's Jens Stoltenberg said: "Russian troops in eastern Ukraine are supporting these offensive operations with command and control systems, air defence systems with advanced surface-to-air missiles, unmanned aerial systems, advanced multiple rocket launcher systems, and electronic warfare systems."'[309][330]

Svetlana Davydova, a mother of seven, was accused of treason for calling the Ukrainian embassy about Russian troop movements and arrested on 27 January 2015. She was held at the high-security Lefortovo jail in Moscow until her release on 3 February with charges against her still pending. The Russian General Staff said details of the case constituted a "state secret."[331][332] On 9 February 2015, a group of 20 contract soldiers from Murmansk raised an official complaint to the Russian ministry of defence when they were told they would "go to the Rostov area and possibly cross the Ukrainian border to fulfill their patriotic duty". The soldiers notified human rights activists and requested the orders in written form, which they were not given.[333][334] On 13 February, a young soldier, Ilya Kudryavtsev, was found dead after calling home and informing his relatives that he was to be sent on a mission to Rostov-on-Don, which is the usual starting point to Ukraine. Although he was severely beaten, his death was officially classified as a suicide.[335]

2015–2021

According to a top U.S. general in January, Russian supplied drones and electronic jamming have ensured Ukrainian troops struggle to counter artillery fire by pro-Russian militants. "The rebels have Russian-provided UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) that are giving the rebels the detection capability and the ability to target Ukrainian forces".[336] Advanced electronic jamming was also reported by OSCE observers on numerous occasions.[337]

In February, both Ukrainian and DNR sides reported unknown sabotage groups firing at both sides of the conflict and also on residential areas, calling them a "third force".[338] SBU published an intercepted call in which DNR commanders reported such a group had been arrested with Russian passports and military documents.[339] DNR confirmed that such groups were indeed stopped and "destroyed" but called them "Ukrainian sabotage groups working to discredit the armed forces of the Russian Federation".[340]

US Army commander in Europe Ben Hodges stated in February 2015 that "it's very obvious from the amount of ammunition, type of equipment, there's direct Russian military intervention in the Debaltseve area".[341] According to estimates by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs in February, Russian separatists forces number around 36,000 troops (as compared to 34,000 Ukrainian), of which 8,500–10,000 are purely Russian soldiers. Additionally, around 1,000 GRU troops are operating in the area.[342] According to a military expert, Ilya Kramnik, total Ukrainian forces outnumber the Russian forces by a factor of two (20,000 Russian separatists vs. 40,000 fighting for Ukraine).[343]

In February 2015, the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta had obtained documents,[344] allegedly written by oligarch Konstantin Malofayev and others, which provided the Russian government with a strategy in the event of Viktor Yanukovych's removal from power and the break-up of Ukraine, which were considered likely. The documents outlined plans for the annexation of Crimea and the eastern portions of the country, closely describing the events that actually followed after Yanukovych's fall. The documents also described plans for a public relations campaign which would seek to justify Russian actions.[345][346][347]

In March 2015, Novaya Gazeta published an interview with a Russian soldier, Dorzhi Batomunkuev, who operated a tank in the Battle of Debaltseve and was wounded. He confirmed that the tanks came from his military unit in Ulan-Ude in Russia and that his unit "painted over the serial numbers and unit signs straight away on the rail platforms". In November 2014, Batomunkuev was sent as a conscript to Rostov-on-Don, where he became a contract soldier. Traveling by train with his unit from Ulan-Ude, Batomunkuev said he saw "plenty of such trains" traveling along with them "day after day". After three months at Kosminskiy training facility, their unit of 31 tanks and 300 soldiers in total (mostly Buryats) was given an order to move on 8 February 2015 and crossed the Ukrainian border in the night, arriving in Donetsk in the morning. They took part in the battle on 12–14 February.[348][349][350] Joseph Kobzon met Batomunkuev in the same hospital a few days before the NG interview.[351] In 2016 Alexander Minakov, another Russian soldier wounded in the battle of Debaltseve, was awarded a medal "For services to the Fatherland".[352] In March 2015, president Putin awarded the honorary name of "Guards" to two divisions: 11. paratroopers brigade from Ulan-Ude, 83. paratroopers brigade from Ussuriysk and 38. communications regiment from Moscow area. The status was awarded for undisclosed combat operations.[353]

A report by Igor Sutyagin published by the Royal United Services Institute in March 2015 stated that a total of 42,000 regular Russian combat troops have been involved in the fighting, with a peak strength of 10,000 in December 2014. The direct involvement of the Russian troops on Ukrainian territory began in August 2014, at a time when Ukrainian military successes created the possibility that the pro-Russian rebels would collapse. According to the report, the Russian troops are the most capable units on the anti-Ukrainian side, with the regular Donetsk and Luhansk rebel formations being used essentially as "cannon fodder".[354][355] The Chicago Council on Global Affairs stated that the Russian separatists enjoyed technical advantages over the Ukrainian army since the large inflow of advanced military systems in mid-2014: effective anti-aircraft weapons ("Buk", MANPADS) suppressed Ukrainian air strikes, Russian drones provided intelligence, and Russian secure communications system thwarted the Ukrainian side from communications intelligence. The Russian side also frequently employed electronic warfare systems that Ukraine lacked. Similar conclusions about the technical advantage of the Russian separatists were voiced by the Conflict Studies Research Centre.[355]

In March 2015, a commander of the DPR special forces unit, Dmitry Sapozhnikov, gave an interview to the BBC[356] in which he spoke openly about the involvement of Russian soldiers in the conflict. He described the arrival of Russian military vehicles and personnel from across the border as critical to the success of large-scale operations such as the battle of Debaltseve. Russian high-rank officers planned the operations and regular Russian army units with DPR forces carried them out jointly. In Sapozhnikov's opinion, "everyone knows that" and it's "no secret", but he was surprised to find out that it is not so widely acknowledged in Russia when he returned to Saint Petersburg.[357]

In April 2015, a group of Russian volunteers returning to Ekaterinburg complained in an interview to local media about a lack of support from the local population, who sometimes called them "occupiers", and their highly ambiguous status while in Donbas: Ukraine and "the court in Madrid" considered them to be terrorists; the DPR considered them "illegal armed groups" and offered them contracts, but if they signed they would become mercenaries under Russian law.[358] Another volunteer, a citizen of Latvia nicknamed "Latgalian", told on his return from Donbas that he was disappointed with how the situation there differed from what he had seen in the Russian media: he saw no support and sometimes open hostility to the insurgents from the local civilians, presence of Russian troops and military equipment.[359] Also in early April, a number of Russian spetsnaz soldiers took pictures of themselves changing their military uniforms into "miner's battledress" used by the insurgents, and posted them on their VK pages, where they were picked up by Ukrainian media.[360] Another volunteer, Bondo Dorovskih, who left to Donbas to "fight fascism" gave a long interview to Russian media on his return, describing how he found himself "not in an army, but in a gang", involved in large-scale looting. He also described the methods used by Russian army to covertly deliver military equipment, people and ammunition to Donbas, as well as hostile attitude of the local civilian population.[361]

On 22 April 2015, the US Department of State accused the "combined Russian-separatist forces" of accumulating air defence systems, UAV along with command and control equipment in eastern Ukraine, and of conducting "complex" military training that "leaves no doubt that Russia is involved in the training". Russia is also reinforcing its military presence on the eastern border with Ukraine as well as near Belgorod which is close to Kharkiv.[362]

In May 2015, Reuters interviewed a number of Russian soldiers, some named and some speaking under condition of anonymity, who were serving in Donbas as truck drivers, crew of a T-72B3 tank and of a "Grad" launcher. Some of their colleagues resigned when asked to go to Donbas by their commanders, which was "not an easy decision" because the salary offered was between 20 and 60,000 rubles per month. The members of the "Grad" launcher crew confirmed they were shelling targets in Ukraine from Russian territory, around 2 km from the border.[363]

Allies of Boris Nemtsov released Putin. War in May 2015, a report on Russian involvement that he had been working on before his death.[364] Other Russian opposition activists announced that they had found fresh graves of members of a GRU special forces brigade that had operated in Ukraine.[365]

In May, two GRU soldiers, Alexander Alexandrov and Yevgeny Yerofeyev, were captured in a battle near Schastie and were later interviewed by press, admitting to being on active duty at the time of capture. Russian military command declared they left active service in December 2014, a claim that was repeated on Russian television by the wife of Alexandrov.[365][366] Consequently, Ukraine declared it would try them as terrorists, not prisoners of war, and a controversy developed in the Russian press regarding the status of the soldiers.[367] At the same time, Russian journalists found out that their families were strictly isolated from contacts with press and the captured soldiers.[368] While Alexandrov declared he would seek legal methods to confirm his status in Russia, military analyst Alexander Golts considers this impossible as special forces soldiers routinely sign contract termination declaration to be backdated in such a situation.[369]

Shortly afterward, a Russian military drone, "Forpost", was shot down near Avdeevka and recovered in good condition, with all the serial numbers and nameplates intact.[370][371] On 28 May 2015, the Atlantic Council released Hiding in Plain Sight: Putin's War in Ukraine, a report which they said provided "irrefutable evidence of direct Russian military involvement in eastern Ukraine".[372]

On 17 May 2015 two Russian soldiers of the 3rd Guards Spetsnaz Brigade were captured by Secret Service of Ukraine during a battle near town Shchastya (Lughansk oblast, Ukraine).[373] On 18 May they were transferred to Kyiv.[374] On 19 May a spokesman for the Russian Defence Ministry stated that the two named prisoners were not active servicemen when they were captured,[375] thus depriving the two Russians of their status as combatants and their protection under the Geneva Convention. The head of Ukraine's Security Service stated that the two men will be prosecuted for "terrorist acts".[375] On 20 May 2015 members of the OSCE mission to Ukraine spoke with the Russian soldiers in the hospital.[376] The OSCE 20 May 2015 report includes the following:

One of them said he had received orders from his military unit to go to Ukraine; he was to "rotate" after three months. Both of them said they had been to Ukraine "on missions" before.

— OSCE, report of May 20, 2015[376]

In June 2015, Vice News reporter Simon Ostrovsky investigated the movements of Bato Dambaev, a Russian contract soldier from Buryatia, through a military camp in Rostov Oblast to Vuhlehirsk in Ukraine during the battle of Debaltseve and back to Buryatia, finding exact locations where Dambaev photographed himself, and came to a conclusion that Dambaev had fought in Ukraine while in active service in the Russian army.[377] With Russia refusing to allow the OSCE to expand its mission, OSCE observer Paul Picard stated that "We often see how Russian media outlets manipulate our statements. They say that we have not seen Russian troops crossing the borders. But that only applies to two border crossings. We have no idea what is going on at the others."[378]

In July 2015, Ukraine arrested a Russian officer, Vladimir Starkov, when his truck loaded with ammunition took a wrong turn and ended up at a Ukrainian checkpoint. On arrest, Starkov declared that he was a Russian military officer in active service and later explained that he was officially assigned to a Russian military unit in Novocherkassk, but immediately on arrival reassigned to join DPR forces.[379][380]

In September 2015 the United Nations Human Rights Office estimated that 8000 casualties had resulted from the conflict, noting that the violence had been "fuelled by the presence and continuing influx of foreign fighters and sophisticated weapons and ammunition from the Russian Federation."[381]

In November 2015, a Russian judge accepted a Russian citizen's claim that serving in the DNR militia was a mitigating circumstance.[382] On 17 December 2015, Putin admitted that Russian military intelligence officers were operating in Ukraine, stating "We never said there were not people there who carried out certain tasks including in the military sphere."[80]

In 2020 analysis of publicly available Russian railway traffic data (gdevagon.ru) indicated that in January 2015, period of especially heavy fighting, thousands of tons of cargo declared "high explosives" was sent by railway from various places in Russia into Uspenskaya, a small train station on a line crossing from Rostovskaya oblast' (Russia) into separatist-controlled part of Ukraine.[383]

2016 escalation

On 8 August 2016, Ukraine reported that Russia had increased its military presence along the Crimea demarcation line. Border crossings were then closed.[384] On 10 August, the Russian security agency FSB claimed it had prevented "Ukrainian terrorist attacks" and that two servicemen were killed in clashes in Armiansk (Crimea), adding that "several" Ukrainian and Russian citizens were detained.[385][386][387] Russian media reported that one of the killed soldiers was a commander of the Russian GRU, and later was buried in Simferopol.[388] The Ukrainian government denied that the incident took place,[389][390] and parallel to the incident on 9 August, a Ukrainian official claimed that a number of Russian soldiers had deserted but had not entered into Ukraine,[391] and that skirmishes broke out between Russian intelligence officers and border guards.[392] Russian President Putin accused Ukraine of turning to the "practice of terror".[393] Ukrainian President Poroshenko called the Russian version of events "equally cynical and insane".[394] The U.S. denied Russia's claims, with its ambassador to Ukraine (Geoffrey R. Pyatt) stating "The U.S. Government has seen nothing so far that corroborates Russian allegations of a "Crimea incursion".[395][check quotation syntax]

Russia had used the allegation to engage in a rapid military build-up in Crimea,[396] followed by drills and military movement near the Ukrainian border.[396][397] Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko warned that Russia was preparing for a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.[398][399]

In September 2016, OSCE monitoring mission noticed military trucks with partially covered Russian number plates 26 km east from Donetsk.[400] Also in September a Russian soldier Denis Sidorov surrendered to the Ukrainian forces in Shirokaya Balka, revealing details of Russian leadership of the local DNR forces in the area.[401]

On 17 October 2016, the OSCE mission noted a minivan with "black licence plates with white lettering" which are used on military vehicles in Russia. A number of people in civilian and military camouflage were traveling on the vehicle.[402]

2018 Kerch Strait incident

File:Kerch Strait incident.png
Kerch Strait incident over passage between Black and Azov Sea

The Kerch Strait offers a critical link for Ukraine's eastern ports in the Azov Sea to the Black Sea, which Russia has gained de facto control over in the aftermath of 2014. In 2017, Ukraine appealed to court of arbitration over the use of the strait, however, by 2018 Russia finished building a bridge over it, limiting the size of ships that can transit the strait, imposed new regulation and subsequently detained Ukrainian vessels on several occasions.

Tensions over the issue have been rising for months.[403] On 25 November 2018, three Ukrainian boats traveling from Odessa to Mariupol attempted to cross the Kerch Strait caused an incident, in which Russian warships fired on and seized the Ukrainian boats; 24 Ukrainian sailors were detained.[404][405] A day later on 26 November 2018, lawmakers in the Ukrainian parliament overwhelmingly backed the imposition of martial law along Ukraine's coastal regions and those bordering Russia in response to the firing upon and seizure of Ukrainian naval ships by Russia near the Crimean peninsula a day earlier. A total of 276 lawmakers in Kyiv passed the measure to take effect on 28 November 2018 and automatically expired after 30 days.[406]

2019–2020

File:Putin, Macron, Merkel, Zelensky (2019-12-10) 01.jpg
From left, Russian President Vladimir Putin, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Paris, France, December 2019

More than 110 Ukrainian soldiers were killed in the conflict between Ukrainian government forces and Russian-backed separatists in 2019.[407]

In May 2019, the newly elected Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky took office promising to end the War in Donbas.[407]

In December 2019, Ukraine and pro-Russian separatists began swapping prisoners of war. Around 200 prisoners were exchanged on 29 December 2019.[408][409][410][411]

According to Ukrainian authorities, 50 Ukrainian soldiers were killed in the conflict between Ukrainian government forces and Russian-backed separatists in 2020.[412]

2021–2022 Russian military buildup

In late March–early April 2021, the Russian military moved large quantities of arms and equipment from western and central Russia, and as far away as Siberia, into occupied Crimea and the Pogonovo training facility 17 km south of Voronezh.[413][414] A Janes intelligence specialist identified fourteen Russian military units from the Central Military District that had moved into the vicinity of the Russo-Ukrainian border, and called it the largest unannounced military movement since the 2014 invasion of Crimea.[415] Commander-in-Chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces Ruslan Khomchak said that Russia has stationed 28 BTGs (battalion tactical groups) along the border, and that it was expected that 25 more were to be brought in,[416] including in Bryansk and Voronezh oblasts in Russia's Western Military District. The following day, Russian state news agency TASS reported that fifty of its BTGs consisting of 15,000 soldiers were massed for drills in the Southern Military District, which includes occupied Crimea and also borders the Donbas conflict zone.[417] By 9 April, the head of the Ukrainian border guard estimated that 85,000 Russian soldiers were already in Crimea or within 40 kilometres (25 mi) of the Ukrainian border.[418]

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky spoke to American president Joe Biden and urged NATO members to speed up Ukraine's request for membership.[419][420] A Kremlin spokesman said that Russian military movements pose no threat,[421] but Russian official Dmitry Kozak warned that Russian forces could act to "defend" Russian citizens in Ukraine, and any escalation of the conflict would mean "the beginning of the end of Ukraine" – "not a shot in the leg, but in the face".[422][423] At the time some half a million people in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic and Luhansk People's Republic had been issued with Russian passports since fighting broke out in 2014.[424] Russia refused to participate when Ukraine requested a Vienna Document meeting with France, Germany, and the OSCE.[425][426] German chancellor Angela Merkel telephoned Russian president Vladimir Putin to demand a reversal of the buildup.[427] United States White House press secretary Jen Psaki announced in early April 2021 that a buildup of Russian troops on Ukrainian border was the largest since 2014.[428]

On 24 March, Ukrainian President Zelensky signed the Decree 117/2021 approving the "strategy of disoccupation and reintegration of the temporarily occupied territory of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol."[429]

On 17 April 2021, Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) detained the Ukrainian consul general in Saint Petersburg, Oleksandr Sosoniuk, over spying allegations, accusing Sosoniuk of trying to get classified information from a FSB database.[430][431] The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that it had summoned Ukraine's chargé d'affaires, Vasyl Pokotylo, and told him that Sosoniuk had to leave the country by 22 April.[432] Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs then stated that Sosoniuk was held for several hours before being released.[433] It also protested Sosoniuk's detention and rejected Russia's accusations, adding that it will expel a "senior diplomat of the Russian embassy in Kyiv" in response to the "provocation" within 72 hours beginning 19 April.[434]

On 22 April 2021, Russian Minister of Defence Sergey Shoygu announcing an exercise drawdown with troops returning to base by 1 May, but leaving equipment at the Pogonovo training facility for the annual exercise with Belarus in September 2021.[413]

On 1 September 2021, citing "senior Biden administration officials," The New York Times reported that Russia had only withdrawn a few thousand troops since the previous Russian military build-up in the spring of 2021. The article in the NYT put the number of Russian troops in the border regions at some 80,000.[435]

In September 2021, Ukraine conducted military exercises with NATO forces. The Kremlin warned that NATO expanding military infrastructure in Ukraine would cross "red lines" for President Putin.[436] Also in September, up to 200,000 Russian troops were taking part in Zapad 2021, a large joint Russia-Belarussian military exercise, centered on what the Russian General Staff terms the Western strategic direction.[437][438]

In November 2021, the Russian Defense Ministry described the deployment of the U.S. warships to the Black Sea as a "threat to regional security and strategic stability." The ministry said in a statement, "The real goal behind the U.S. activities in the Black Sea region is exploring the theater of operations in case of Kyiv’s attempts to settle the conflict in the southeast by force."[439]

On 13 November, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stated that Russia has again amassed 100,000 troops in the border area,[440] higher than the U.S. assessment of about 70,000.[441] In early November, reports of Russian military buildups prompted U.S. officials to warn the EU that Russia could be planning a potential invasion of Ukraine.[442][443] Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied allegations that Russia is preparing for a possible invasion of Ukraine.[444] He accused Ukraine of "planning aggressive actions against Donbass."[445] Peskov urged NATO to stop "concentrating a military fist" near Russia's borders and to stop arming Ukraine with modern weapons.[446]

On 26 November 2021, President Zelensky accused Russia of backing a plan to overthrow his government.[447] Russia has denied his accusations.[448]

On 30 November 2021, President Putin stated that an expansion of NATO's presence in Ukraine, especially the deployment of any long-range missiles capable of striking Moscow or missile defence systems similar to those in Romania and Poland, would be a "red line" issue for the Kremlin. He said that these missile-defense systems may be converted into launchers of offensive Tomahawk long-range cruise missiles.[449][450][451] According to Putin, "If some kind of strike systems appear on the territory of Ukraine, the flight time to Moscow will be seven to 10 minutes, and five minutes in the case of a hypersonic weapon being deployed."[452] NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg stated: "It's only Ukraine and 30 NATO allies that decide when Ukraine is ready to join NATO. Russia has no veto, Russia has no say, and Russia has no right to establish a sphere of influence to try to control their neighbors."[453][454]

File:Russian forces near Ukraine, 2021-12-03 (crop).jpg
U.S. intelligence assessment map and imagery on Russian military movement nearby the Ukrainian border, as at 3 December 2021. It assessed that Russia had deployed about 70,000 military personnel mostly about 100–200 kilometres (62–124 mi) from the Ukrainian border, with an assessment this could be increased to 175,000 personnel. Published by The Washington Post.[441]
File:Secretary Blinken Meets With Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov (51719522528).jpg
On sidelines of OSCE meeting in Stockholm in December 2021, Antony Blinken and Sergey Lavrov discussed troop build-ups on the Russian-Ukrainian border.

On 1 December 2021, Russia accused Ukraine of deploying half its army – about 125,000 troops – in Donbas to confront pro-Russian separatists.[455] On 3 December, President Putin criticized Ukraine for using a Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 drone against pro-Russian separatists in Donbas, saying the move violated the Minsk peace agreements.[456] According to Ozgur Unluhisarcikli of the German Marshall Fund, Turkish-made "drones provided to Azerbaijan were a decisive factor" in the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war between Armenia and Azerbaijan, "and Russia knows this".[457] On 9 December, Russia accused Ukraine of moving heavy artillery towards the front line where separatists are fighting with Ukrainian forces.[458] Chief of the Russian General Staff, Valery Gerasimov, stated that [NATO's] "Deliveries of helicopters, unmanned aerial vehicles and airplanes to Ukraine are pushing the Ukrainian authorities to take sharp and dangerous steps. Any provocations of the Ukrainian authorities by way of a forced settlement of the problems of Donbass will be suppressed."[459]

On 2 January 2022, President Joe Biden spoke with President Zelensky and cleared that the United States and its allies and partners will respond decisively if Russia further invades Ukraine.[460]

On 17 January 2022, British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace announced that Britain is supplying Ukraine with anti-armor weaponry by air.[461] Russian troops and weapons began arriving in Belarus for the 'Allied Resolve' joint exercise, which starts in February.[462]

U.S. intelligence officials warned that Russia was planning a major military offensive into Ukraine in January 2022.[463] Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and General Mark Milley, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, threatened U.S. support for an anti-Russian insurgency inside Ukraine.[464] On 19 January 2022, President Joe Biden said that he thinks Russia will invade Ukraine.[465] Biden said a full-scale invasion of Ukraine would be "the most consequential thing that's happened in the world in terms of war and peace" since World War II.[466]

The United States has estimated that Russia could assemble 175,000 troops to invade Ukraine.[467] Ukraine's Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov said that "we have 250,000 official ... members of our army. Plus, I said 400,000 veterans and 200,000 reservists. 175,000 (is) not enough to go to Ukraine."[468] Reznikov said that Russia could launch a large-scale attack on Ukraine in late January 2022.[469]

The United States accused Russia of plans to send saboteurs into Ukraine to stage "a false flag operation" that would create a pretext for Russia to invade Ukraine. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov dismissed the U.S. claim as "total disinformation."[470] The Kremlin has repeatedly denied that it has any plans to invade Ukraine.[471][466]

On 24 January 2022, Oleksiy Danilov, the secretary of Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council, said that the movement of Russian troops near Ukraine's border was "not news" and "we don't see any grounds for statements about a full-scale offensive on our country."[472]

On 25 January 2022, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said he currently sees no threat of a full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine.[473][474] Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar stated the variety of Russian troops massed on Ukraine's borders "are not enough for a full-scale invasion."[475]

On 26 January 2022, NATO sent ships, fighter jets to eastern Europe. The United States said 8,500 troops are on alert.[476]

The US rejected Russia's demand to bar Ukraine from NATO in a formal response by US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken.[477]

On 28 January 2022, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called on the West not to create a "panic" in his country over a potential Russian invasion, adding that constant warnings of an "imminent" threat of invasion are putting the economy of Ukraine at risk.[478] Zelensky said that "we do not see a bigger escalation" than in early 2021 when Russia's military build-up started.[479]

On 2 February 2022, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko condemned a US initiative to send more troops to Europe, in support of NATO allies in the wake of escalation of conflict between Russia and Ukraine. He described it as a "destructive" and "unjustified" step that will only increase the tensions.[480]

On 5 February 2022, Russia dispatched two long-range nuclear-capable aircraft on patrol over Belarus in the midst of rising tensions over Ukraine.[481]

On 7 February 2022, Vladimir Putin and Emmanuel Macron met for marathon talks at the Kremlin, but the 5-hour long talks failed to produce any significant progress.[484]

On 11 February 2022, Biden's national security advisor Jake Sullivan publicly warned about the likelihood of a Russian invasion of Ukraine prior to the end the 2022 Winter Olympics, urging all Americans to leave Ukraine immediately.[485][486] U.S. intelligence released details regarding how an invasion into Ukraine by Russia may occur. These included the possibility of air raids by Russia as well as missile strikes, electronic warfare, followed by a ground invasion.[487] Senior official of the Biden administration told reporters: "We are basing this assessment on what we're seeing on the ground with our own eyes, which is the continued Russian buildup on the border with Ukraine, and no meaningful evidence of de-escalation."[488] The U.S. intelligence indicated that Russia is planning to invade Ukraine on 16 February 2022.[489]

On 15 February 2022, Russia claims to have removed some of its forces from the Ukrainian border in what some believe to be a de-escalation attempt. However, the situation remains uncertain and the move by Russia has been met with suspicion from Western leaders, which was further enhanced after Ukraine was cyber attacked the same day, believed to have been orchestrated by Russia.[490] U.S. president Joe Biden remains unconvinced that Russia will not invade and urged all Americans in Ukraine to evacuate immediately. The foreign minister of Poland, Zbigniew Rau, travelled to Moscow to discuss the current situation in a further attempt to prevent war.[491] Some sources claim that Russian forces have moved even closer to the Ukrainian border equipped with medical supplies as well as being positioned into firing positions.[492]

On 16 February 2022, according to U.S. intelligence, around 7,000 more Russian troops were deployed to the Ukrainian border.[493] This comes a day after Moscow claimed to have pulled back some its troops from the Ukrainian border. No invasion of Ukraine occurred as believed by the U.S.

On 17 February 2022, a Ukrainian kindergarten building was shelled by artillery, suspected to have been orchestrated by Russian forces.[494] No one was killed in the attack and Moscow denies its involvement. Western leaders warn the shelling could be a 'false-flag' operation in which Russia could justify an invasion of Ukraine.[495]

On 20 February 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin stated that diplomatic attempts to resolve the Ukraine conflict must be stepped up. He stressed the fact that in order to prevent conflict, NATO must take Moscow's demands for security guarantees seriously. Putin blasted NATO for "pumping sophisticated weaponry and ammunition" into Ukraine after a phone talk with French President Emmanuel Macron.[496]

On 22 February 2022, the United States and United Kingdom announced that they would begin imposing sanctions against Russia in the following days.[497] This comes a day after Putin stated that he officially recognises Donetsk and Luhansk as independent regions and began sending troops into these parts of Eastern Ukraine.[498][499] Putin claims the presence of more Russian forces is simply to maintain peace, however, this was met with great backlash from world leaders.[500] The same day, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he will consider the possibility of severing Ukraine's diplomatic relations with Russia.[501]

On 23 February 2022, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, declared a state of emergency period for 30 days for the whole of Ukraine, excluding the Donetsk and Luhansk regions which have been in a state of emergency since 2014.[502]

2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine

On 21 February 2022, the Russian government claimed that Ukrainian shelling had destroyed an FSB border facility on the Russia Ukraine border, and claimed that it had killed 5 Ukrainian soldiers who tried to cross into Russian territory. Ukraine denied being involved in both incidents and called them a false flag.[503][504] On the same day, the Russian government formally recognized the self-proclaimed DPR and LPR as independent states, according to Putin not only in their de-facto controlled areas, but the Ukrainian Oblasts as a whole,[505] and Putin ordered Russian troops, including tanks, to enter the regions.[506][507][508]

On 24 February 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an invasion of Ukraine by Russian Armed Forces previously concentrated along the border.[509] The invasion followed by targeted airstrikes of military buildings in the country, as well as tanks entering via the Belarus border.[510][511] Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy declared martial law throughout Ukraine.[512] Air raid sirens were heard throughout Ukraine for most of the day.[513] Ukraine's ICT infrastructure has already deteriorated as a result of Russian cyber-attacks and bombardments.[514][515] Several Ukrainian cities or buildings have been occupied, including the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant.[516][517][518] However, per a US defence official, Russians forces are "meeting more resistance" in advance towards Kyiv "than they expected";[519] a statement repeated by James Heappey, Britain's current Minister of the Armed Forces the next day.[520]

Details of Russian involvement

Donbas

Cross-border artillery shelling

The Russian cross-border artillery shelling of Ukraine happened in July–September 2014 to prevent the defeat of the self-declared Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics. The Russian Armed Forces performed a series of artillery strikes targeting Ukrainian troops in the Donbas region.

Russian troops and "volunteers" in Ukraine

File:Top-10 military gadgets involved in the russian aggression against Ukraine.jpg
Some of the military equipment being used in the Donbas war

Russian officials denied[521] reports that Russian military units were operating in Ukraine, claiming instead they had been sent on routine drills close to the border with Ukraine[522] and crossed the border by mistake.[523] Nevertheless, evidence of its soldiers' involvement is rampant.[524] OSCE monitoring mission has on numerous occasions spotted military convoys covertly crossing the border from Russia into Donbas,[525][526] as well as presence of military equipment produced in Russia and never exported to Ukraine.[527]

According to the RAND Corporation, "Russia has armed, trained, and led the separatist forces. But even by Kyiv's own estimates, the vast majority of rebel forces consist of locals—not soldiers of the regular Russian military. Indeed, the Russian armed forces engaged directly in the fighting only twice—in August–September 2014 and January–February 2015—and with limited capabilities, although both episodes ended in crushing Ukrainian defeats."[528]

On 25 August 2014, ten Russian paratroopers were captured in Ukraine, the Russian Ministry of Defence maintained that the men were lost and crossed the border into Ukraine by accident.[214] In May 2015, two suspected Russian GRU agents (Military intelligence) were detained by Ukrainian forces, Russia's Ministry of Defence stated the men were former soldiers who were not on active duty at the time of capture. The two men were later exchanged for captured Ukrainian pilot and politician Nadiya Savchenko.[375] In July 2015 a Russian major was detained near Donetsk as he drove an ammunition truck into a Ukrainian checkpoint, the Russian military maintained the man was not involved with the Russian military and fought for local separatists. The major was later exchanged for captured Ukrainian soldiers.[529][530] In September 2015 Ukraine's border guards detained 2 Russian internal troops when they crossed the border in Ukraine's Luhansk oblast, the Russian servicemen stated they were lost and crossed the border by accident, with the Russian Military of Defence accusing Ukraine's forces of crossing into the nearby Russian village and abducting the servicemen.[531][532] In October 2015, Russian Ministry of Defence admitted that "special forces were pulled out of Ukraine and sent to Syria" and that they were serving in eastern Ukraine on territories held by pro-Russian rebels.[533] On 17 December 2015 when asked about the two detained Russian citizens in Ukraine who were being accused of being military intelligence officers President Vladimir Putin responded: "We never said there were not people there who carried out certain tasks including in the military sphere." This was generally taken as an admission that Russian military operatives were deployed to Ukraine.[80] Before that declaration there had been a large amount of circumstantial evidence that confirmed the presence of Russia's military.[23][534][535][536][537][538][539][540][541]

Large part of the circumstantial evidence are military vehicles and weapons that are unique to Russian armed forces and never present in Ukraine before the conflict captured by journalists and found on social media. The OSCE monitoring mission has also noted the presence of troops declaring themselves as Russian servicemen in DPR-controlled territory.[542] As the rest of the post-Soviet republics every Russian military equipment has a hull number (bortovoi nomer). However equipment in possession of the LPR and DPR has all hull number painted over to conceal its relation to the Russian Armed Forces."THE BATTLE OF ILOVAISK". Forensic Architecture. 19 August 2019. Retrieved 17 November 2020.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Russian citizen and Sparta Battalion commander Arseny Pavlov in Donetsk, 25 December 2014

In 2015, NATO spokesman Robert Pszczel stated in an interview for Dozhd TV that the alliance has sufficient evidence to make "28 member states of the alliance have no doubts about military involvement of Russia" in the Donbas conflict.[543]

In a battle at Donetsk airport at least 31 of the people killed were Russian citizens and were delivered back to Russia.[544] A report for the independent news site Novaya Gazeta, reprinted in The Guardian, tracked down the widow of one Russian man who died during the fighting at Donetsk airport, and sought to shed light onto the obscure structures that organised the transfer of fighters to Ukraine. The report further highlighted the "frustration of dealing with Russian officialdom apparently so keen to cover up all traces of those fighting across the border".[545]

Aleksandr Zakharchenko takes an oath of office as the Prime Minister of Donetsk People's Republic, 8 August 2014 by ANNA News. In August too he said 1200 fighters trained in Russia for four months, crossed and were ready to fight. He said the reinforcements included 30 tanks and 120 armoured vehicles.[546]

Alexander Zakharchenko said that 1200 fighters had trained in Russia for four months, crossed the border, and were ready to fight. Zakharchenko said the reinforcements included 30 tanks and 120 armoured vehicles.[546] He later denied making the comments.[547]

Cases of Russian soldiers killed and wounded in Ukraine are widely discussed in local Russian media in the republics from which they originated.[548] Recruitment for Donbas is performed rather openly via veteran and other paramilitary organisations. Vladimir Yefimov, leader of one of such organisations, explained in details in an interview how the process works in Ural area. The organisation recruits mostly army veterans, but also policemen, firefighters etc. with military experience. The cost of equipping one volunteer is estimated at around 350,000 rubles (around $6500) plus cost of the volunteer's salary from 60,000 to 240,000 rubles per month depending on their experience. The volunteers are issued a document claiming that their participation is limited to "offering humanitarian help" to avoid Russian mercenary laws. In Russia's anti-mercenary legislation a mercenary is defined as someone who "takes part [in fighting] with aims counter to the interests of the Russian Federation".[549] The recruited travel to the conflict zone without weapons, which are given at the destination. Often, Russian troops have travelled disguised as Red Cross personnel.[171][550][551][552] Igor Trunov, head of Russian Red Cross in Moscow condemned these convoys, saying they made delivery of real humanitarian aid more difficult.[553]

Another leader of a "patriotic organisation" from Orsk, Pavel Korovin, estimated that a total of around 12,000 fighters for Donbas had been recruited from Russia. A significant proportion were people in difficult financial situations, attracted by a high salary (one of the volunteers was promised 100,000 rubles or $1600). Responding to concerns about crossing the Ukrainian border, he explained that "there is a green light for the volunteers on the border" and "all that is covered by appropriate structures". The family of a killed volunteer, when asking about help in bringing back the body, is advised to "speak to the FSB, only they are controlling everything there".[554]

Shortly before his death, Boris Nemtsov was reportedly contacted by a group of "paratroopers from Ivanovo" who complained about significant losses in their unit during a battle in Ukraine and the lack of the promised payment. Nemtsov was preparing a larger report documenting cases of Russian soldiers taking part in the war in Donbas, which is considered a possible reason for his assassination.[555]

The repatriation of Russians killed in action or taken as prisoners of war has become a controversial topic in the media due to the Russian state's denial of involvement in Ukraine.[556][557][558][559] The Associated Press compared it to the Soviet Union's secrecy during its war in Afghanistan, noting "When the true numbers of casualties became known, the invasion turned unpopular."[537] Russian military officials tell family members only that the soldiers are on "training exercises".[560]

Valentina Melnikova, head of the Russian Union of Committees of Soldiers' Mothers, has said that the Russian authorities were threatening the relatives of soldiers who had been killed in Ukraine, and forcing them to keep silent about their deaths.[561] The Kremlin has tried to systematically intimidate and silence human rights workers who have raised questions about Russian soldiers' deaths in Ukraine.[72] In mid-September 2014, Ksenia Batanova, a senior producer for the news network Dozhd, was assaulted in an attack that fractured her skull. Dozhd is a channel that has covered the Russian involvement in Ukraine, and kept a running tally of soldiers' deaths. The Kremlin's pressure on Dozhd intensified during the Ukrainian crisis.[562] The BBC reported on the death on 12 August 2014 of a Russian soldier, Konstantin, whose telephone calls to his sister had spoken of Ukraine. The BBC team was stopped and attacked by thugs and its video camera smashed.[563][564] Lev Shlosberg, an MP who was beaten unconscious after investigating the deaths of twelve paratroopers, said, "A great many Russian servicemen have died in Ukraine and their families are outraged but they don't speak out because they are afraid for their lives."[565] Boris Vishnevsky, of the Yabloko political party, and Lyudmila Ivakhnina of the civil rights group Memorial, said that gathering information about conscripts pressured to sign professional contracts is difficult because of the fear of reprisals.[566]

The Union of the Committees of Soldiers' Mothers of Russia started actively questioning the government's policy of "secret war" after a number of Russian soldiers officially sent for "training" to Rostov area died for reasons never officially revealed to the families. These cases were further investigated by non-mainstream media in Russia. The Russian Ministry of Defence always denied the presence of any Russian soldiers in Ukraine and, when presented with undeniable evidence about specific individuals, suggested that they might have crossed the border "by mistake", were "on holiday" at the time, or that their contracts were cancelled (but actually backdated). Soldier's Mothers stated that if the deceased Russian soldiers weren't officially sent to the war zone, their families would not receive social support and the veteran's pension.[567][568]

On 2 October 2014, RBC published An RBC investigation: Where Russian soldiers in Ukraine are from, in which it listed Russian military divisions, soldiers of which are assumed to have been secretly dispatched from Russia to Ukraine and used there.[569] In 2015, Vice News published a series titled Russia's Ghost Army in Ukraine in which they spoke to a number of families of Russian soldiers killed in Ukraine. The mother of Sergey Andrianov, a Russian from Podsolnechnoe in Samara Oblast who was killed on 28 August 2014, presents a number of documents she received from her son's military unit: the death certificate issued in Rostov-on-Don that specifies that he died at a "place of temporary placement" while "completing a special task" and a document certifying "transportation of the body through the border of Russian Federation". All of the mother's questions to her son's commanders were dismissed as a "state secret" and she was told that she would receive compensation of 100,000 rubles ($1600).[570]

On 16 October 2014, the deputy chief of the Security Service of Ukraine said that the service had released 16 out of 131 servicemen of the Armed Forces of Russian Federation back home to their relatives who petitioned through a hotline.[571]

According to soldiers' rights advocates, the families of Russian soldiers killed after being sent to Ukraine have been told to keep silent, and some families say they have not received the various compensations they are entitled to after a breadwinner in military service has been killed.[572] Svetlana Davydova, a mother of seven, was arrested in 2015, accused of treason for calling the Ukrainian embassy about Russian troop movements, and was held at the high-security Lefortovo jail in Moscow. The Russian General Staff said details of the case constituted a "state secret".[331] The charges against Davydova were dropped the following month.[573] An amendment signed by Putin in late May 2015 banned information about the deaths of Russian servicemen "during special operations" in peacetime.[573][574]

Discussing Russian volunteers in an interview with RIA Novosti on 22 June 2015, Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of the Security Council of Russia, stated: "We don't call on anyone to do this, we don't encourage it. But realistically, to stop them would be impossible".[549] While Russia has charged one of its citizens, Roman Zheleznov, for fighting in the Ukrainian Azov Battalion, as of 25 June 2015, it has charged no one for fighting alongside the separatists.[549] Since counting began on 1 September 2014 until 1 June 2015, the European monitoring mission on the Russian side of the border has recorded 20,021 men in military uniforms crossing to and from rebel-controlled eastern Ukraine.[575]

File:2016-05-09. День Победы в Донецке 085.jpg
Rebel-held Donetsk in 2016. Russian flag can be seen in the background.

In July 2015, a number of Russian contract soldiers at "Kadamovskiy" poligon (Rostovskaya oblast) were charged with desertion after they refused to go into Ukraine as "volunteers". They reported frequent visits of recruiters promising veteran status and daily payment of 8,000 rubles for those fighting in Donbas. They said they were unaware that the money is rarely paid and in case of death, capture or injury in battle they will be most likely abandoned and their official military status denied by Russian army.[576][577] Later that year they were convicted for "refusal to carry out orders" in spite of lack of any orders presented by the prosecution and other inconsistencies.[578]

In September 2015 OSCE monitoring mission spotted Russian TOS-1 "Buratino" thermobaric weapon launchers in separatist training area near Luhansk[579] and in June 2016 its drone spotted a camouflaged R-330ZH "Zhitel" electronic countermeasure station 15 km from Donetsk, these findings being notable as both weapons are unique to the army of Russian Federation.[580]

By October 2015, eastern Ukraine and Crimea were two of Russia's frozen zones.[581] The chances were that the frozen conflict might persist in the Donbas, where the fighting was at a low level, but the threat of escalation remained.[582][583]

In June 2017 another GRU officer Viktor Ageyev was captured by Ukrainian Forces in Zhelobok in the Luhansk oblast. Russian Ministry of Defence denied that he was in active military service but investigation by BBC Russian Service confirmed Ageyev was on military contract in Russian army since March 2017.[584][585]

On 30 June 2017 Sergey Lavrov, Russian minister of foreign affairs, openly admitted and justified Russian involvement in Donbas:[586]

I have read and heard much criticism regarding our decision to join the fight in Donbass and in Syria. ... Would it be acceptable for Russia, considering its international standing, to keep mum and recognise the coup in Ukraine, and to leave Russians and Russian speakers in Ukraine in the lurch after the first order issued by the organisers of the anti-constitutional armed revolt, which was supported by their foreign sponsors, banned many things that were connected with the Russian language?

— Sergey Lavrov, Primakov Readings International Forum, Moscow, June 30, 2017

In November 2021 a court in Rostov-on-Don issued a ruling in a corruption case that openly discusses "Russian Armed Forces dislocated to the territory of DNR and LNR", "Russian soldiers on duty in DNR and LRN" etc. as the party who was at loss as result of the suspect's not delivering goods that were paid for by the army, as well as number of vehicles and frequency of crossings from Russia, storage sites in DNR etc.[587][588]

Russian medal count

Bellingcat founder and journalist Eliot Higgins has referred to the unusual spike in medals awarded to Russian troops coinciding with major battles occurring in Ukraine. It was noticed that between 25 August 2003 and 7 November 2014 there was 0.6 medals For Distinction in Combat awarded to Russian servicemen per day. However, between 7 November 2014 and 18 February 2016 there was an average of 9.3 medals awarded per day, over a fifteenfold increase. Moreover, the award dates directly coincide with major conflicts occurring in Ukraine at the time. August 2014 sees an initial spike of 60 medal per day being awarded, which coincides with reports of regular Russian troops crossing into Ukraine to aid separatist forces. The medal awards peak during November and December 2014, at over 70 per day, which was a crucial turning point during the Second Battle of Donetsk Airport, continuing to remain at over 10 medals per day until March 2015, which coincides with the Battle of Debaltseve. Also important to note is that the medal For Distinction in Combat may only be awarded for activities undertaken during a combat mission, therefore the large spike in medals awarded in late 2014 and early 2015 suggests a large contingent of Russian servicemen undertaking combat missions. In all 4300 medals were awarded between 7 July 2014 and 18 February 2016, suggesting combat operations involving active duty Russian military personnel occurred during the time period. Likewise spikes in awarding other medals were seen as well. The medal For Courage which was awarded at a rate of 1.4 medals per day between September 2008 and August 2014 increased to 6.3 medals per day between August 2014 and November 2015. The Medal of Suvorov saw an increase of award rate from 1.5 medals per day between October 2013 and November 2014 to 6.8 medals per day after November 2014. In fact in the time period between 24 November 2014 and 25 January 2015 more of the medals were awarded than all of 2013 combined.[589][non-primary source needed][590]

Training facility

In a press briefing by the Ukrainian Secretary of the National Security and Defence Council (NSDC), Andriy Parubiy stated that militants were trained in a military facility in Rostov-on-Don, Russia. "Near Rostov-on-Don, there is a big military base where terrorists are preparing for deployment into the territory of the Ukrainian state. This is confirmed not only by our intelligence, but also Russian prisoners who were detained, and they testify about this base", Parubiy said. He added that more than a thousand militants are trained by Russian instructors, and then they in small armed groups try to break into the territory of Ukraine.[591] On 21 May, Ukraine detained a Russian citizen trying to enter the country; he had military experience and was found to have recently trained in the Rostov facility.[592]

According to Russian "volunteer" insurgent organiser Aleksandr Zhuchkovsky, Rostov-on-Don acts as a staging area, where soldiers live in hotels, rented flats and tent camps.[203] In particular, the New York Times reports that the small village of Golovinka (about 60 kilometres (37 mi) northwest of Rostov-on-Don) and nearby Kuzminka military base is a staging area for Russian soldiers and weapons headed to Ukraine.[593]

In June 2014, Jen Psaki stated that the United States Department of State was confident that Russia had sent tanks and rocket launchers from a deployment site in southwest Russia into eastern Ukraine,[594] and NATO satellite imagery showed that on 10 and 11 June main battle tanks were stationed across the border at Donetsk in a staging area in Rostov-on-Don.[595][596]

In July 2014, Reuters published a logbook of an 9K38 Igla missile that was signed out of military storage in Moscow for a military base in Rostov-on-Don, and ended up with insurgents in Donbas, where it was eventually taken over by the Ukrainian forces.[597]

After OSCE observers arrived at Gukovo border crossing on 9 August, they reported that there was a stream of multiple groups of people wearing military-style dress crossing the border between Russia and Ukraine, in both directions, some of them clearly identifying themselves as members of DNR militia. They also observed several ambulance evacuations of wounded supporters of the DPR and LPR.[598]

In February 2015, a group of Spanish nationals were arrested in Madrid for fighting in the war in Donbas on the separatist side. traveling through Moscow, they were met by a "government official" and sent to Donetsk, where they were provided with accommodation, uniforms and weapons, but they fought as volunteers. They stated there are "a few hundreds" of Western volunteers, mostly from Serbia and France, "half of them communists, half Nazis", fighting jointly for the "liberation of Russia from Ukrainian invasion".[599]

Weapons supply

A Russian opposition politician, Ilya Ponomarev, said "I am absolutely confident that in the eastern regions of Ukraine there are Russian troops in very small numbers. And it's not regular soldiers, but likely representatives of special forces and military intelligence."[600] Later in July, after the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, he said that "Putin now understands that he has passed weapons to the wrong people". He also said that even if Moscow stopped the supply of weapons to the Donbas, there would still be enough supporters of the war within the Russian military to continue such shipments unofficially.[601]

Separatist leaders such as Aleksey Mozgovoy visited Moscow and were evasive about who was supplying their weapons.[602]

At a meeting held on 7 July, in the city of Donetsk, Russian politician Sergey Kurginyan held a press conference with representatives of the Donbas People's Militia, including Pavel Gubarev, and said that Russia did provide significant military support for the separatists. During a discussion among the participants, Gubarev complained that the arms that had been sent were old, and not fully functional. In response, Kurginyan listed specific items, including 12,000 automatic rifles, grenade launchers, 2S9 Nona self-propelled mortars, two BMPs, and three tanks, that he knew had been supplied to the separatists by Russia. He also said he saw new, fully functional weapons unloaded at locations in Donbas which he would not "disclose as we are filmed by cameras". Kurginyan admitted that Russia had initially sent "4th category weapons", but since 3 June had supplied equipment that was fully functional. He also said one of his goals whilst in Donetsk was to ensure that military support from Russia was increased.[603][604][605][606][607]

A Ukrainian An-26 military cargo plane was shot down over the Ukrainian village of Davydo Myilske near the Russian border on 14 July. It had been flying at an altitude of 6,500 metres. The head of Ukraine's Security Service Valentyn Nalyvaichenko, stated on 15 July that the SBU had "indisputable" evidence of Russian involvement in the attack.[608]

Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down over the conflict zone on 17 July near Torez in Donetsk Oblast, over an area of Ukraine controlled by pro-Russia separatists.[609][610][611] Evidence from open sources indicated that Buk missile launcher, that widely believed to have been used to shoot down the passenger flight, came from Russia,[612][613] and was transported on 17 July from Donetsk to Snizhne.[614] According to Bellingcat, the launcher was operated by Russian military of 53rd Anti-Aircraft Rocket Brigade.[615][616][617]

In August, Russia sent dozens of white lorries, green army trucks painted white, into eastern Ukraine, without inspection by Ukraine.[618] The trucks were "almost empty" the BBC's Steve Rosenberg reported, and the action was characterized as a diversion, a distraction, so that at other points equipment and personnel came into Ukraine.[58][619]

On 17 August, Ukraine accused Russia of sending more military equipment, including Grad rocket launchers, across the border and on to Nizhny Nagolchyk.[620] Sergei Lavrov continued to deny that Russia was sending any equipment across the border. He asserted that an OSCE observer mission placed at border crossing points in the region had not identified any unlawful crossings of the border but the OSCE mission that Lavrov mentioned had no mandate to check the long, unguarded sections of the border where crossings of men and equipment occurred frequently.[621]

Ukrainian Defence Minister Valeriy Heletey said on 21 August that the militants were using Russian-made weapons that had never been used or bought by the Armed Forces of Ukraine.[622] Injured pro-Russian fighters were usually treated in Russia, with help from the Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations.[623] They were also questioned and registered by the Federal Security Service (FSB), the Russian domestic security and intelligence agency.[623]

Bellingcat has reported on the presence of Russian T-72B3 and T-90A tanks in the Donbas since 2014; the significance of this is that these tanks were not exported to or fielded by Ukraine. T-72B3 and T-90A tanks have reportedly been used near Ilovaisk, Luhansk airport and Debaltseve.[624][625]

Governance

In March 2016, Germany's Bild reported that minutes from an October 2015 meeting of the "Interministerial Commission for the Provision of Humanitarian Aid for the Affected Areas of the Southeast of the Donetsk and Luhansk Regions" indicated that Russia was running militant-controlled parts of east Ukraine. According to Bild, "It is notable that no members of the self-declared people's republics in eastern Ukraine are on the commission".[626]

Since 2019, Russia have issued over 650,000 internal Russian passports among an unconfirmed overall population,[627] which is considered by Ukrainian government as a step towards annexation of the region.[628]

Russian order of battle: 2021

Separatist Forces in the Donbas are organized into two corps: 1st Army Corps and 2nd Army Corps. Ukrainian sources have described these two corps as "operationally subordinate" to the 8th Guards Combined Arms Army HQ within Russia's Southern Military District.[629] As of 2021, subordinate units in these two corps are said to include:

  • 1st Army Corps:
    • 4 Motorized Rifle Brigades (1st, 3rd, 5th, 100th Motorized Rifle Brigade)
    • 2 Motorized Rifle Regiments (9th and 11th Motorized Rifle Regiment)
    • 2 special forces battalions (1st and 3rd SF Battalion)
    • 1 tank battalion (2nd Battalion)
    • 1 reconnaissance battalion (Sparta Separate Reconnaissance Battalion)
    • 1 artillery brigade (Kalmius Artillery Brigade)[630]
  • 2nd Army Corps:
    • 3 Motorized Rifle Brigades (2nd, 4th, 7th Motorized Rifle Brigade)
    • 1 Motorized Rifle Regiment (6th Motorized Rifle Regiment)
    • 1 tank battalion (Pantzir Special Mechanized Force)
    • 1 reconnaissance battalion (Separate reconnaissance battalion "Greka")
    • 1 artillery brigade[630]

Other regions

In addition to the Crimea annexation and war in Donbas, the conflict has also been linked to:

Russia–Ukraine gas disputes

Major Russian natural gas pipelines to Europe

Ukraine remains the main transit route for Russian natural gas sold to Europe, which earns Ukraine about $3 billion a year in transit fees, making it the country's most lucrative export service.[632] Following Russia's launch of the Nord Stream pipeline, which bypasses Ukraine, gas transit volumes have been steadily decreasing.[632] During the Ukrainian crisis, starting in February 2014 with the Russian annexation of Crimea, severe tensions extended to the gas sector.[633][634] Eventually, the EU commissioner for energy Günther Oettinger was called in to broker a deal securing supplies to Ukraine and transit to the EU.[635] A terrorist explosion damaged Russia's Urengoy–Pomary–Uzhhorod pipeline in Rozhniativ district in Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast, Ukraine in May 2014.[636] Another section of the pipeline exploded in the Poltava Oblast on 17 June 2014, one day after Russia limited the supply of gas to Ukrainian customers due to non-payment. Ukraine's Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said the next day, that the explosion had been caused by a bomb.[637]

Russia planned to completely abandon gas supplies to Europe through Ukraine after 2018.[638][639] Russia's state-owned energy giant Gazprom has already substantially reduced the volumes of gas it transits across Ukraine, and expressed its intention of reducing the level further by means of transit diversification pipelines (Turkish Stream, Nord Stream, etc.).[640] Gazprom and Ukraine agreed a five-year deal on Russian gas transit to Europe at the end of 2019.[641][642]

In 2020, the TurkStream natural gas pipeline running from Russia to Turkey changed the regional gas flows in South-East Europe by diverting the transit through Ukraine and the Trans Balkan Pipeline system.[643][644]

In May 2021, the Biden administration waived Trump's CAATSA sanctions on the company behind Russia's Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to Germany and its chief executive.[645][646] Ukrainian President Zelensky said he was "surprised" and "disappointed" by Joe Biden's decision.[647] In July 2021, the U.S. urged Ukraine not to criticise a forthcoming agreement with Germany over the pipeline.[648][649] On 20 July, Joe Biden and German Chancellor Angela Merkel reached a conclusive deal that the U.S. may trigger sanctions if Russia uses Nord Stream as a "political weapon". The deal aims to prevent Poland and Ukraine from being cut off from Russian gas supplies. Ukraine will get a $50 million loan for green technology until 2024 and Germany will set up a billion dollar fund to promote Ukraine's transition to green energy to compensate the loss of the gas transit fees. The contract for transiting Russian gas through Ukraine will be prolonged until 2034, if the Russian government agrees.[650][651][652]

In August 2021, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned that the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline between Russia and Germany was "a dangerous weapon, not only for Ukraine but for the whole of Europe."[653][654]

In September 2021, Ukraine's Naftogaz CEO Yuriy Vitrenko accused Russia of using natural gas as a "geopolitical weapon".[655] Vitrenko stated that "A joint statement from the United States and Germany said that if the Kremlin used gas as a weapon, there would be an appropriate response. We are now waiting for the imposition of sanctions on a 100% subsidiary of Gazprom, the operator of Nord Stream 2."[656]

Russian propaganda and disinformation campaigns

False stories have been used to provoke public uproar during the war. In April 2014, Russian news channels Russia-1 and NTV showed a man saying he was attacked by a fascist Ukrainian gang on one channel and on the other channel saying he was funding the training of right-wing anti-Russia radicals.[657][658] A third segment portrayed the man as a neo-Nazi surgeon.[659] In May 2014, Russia-1 aired a story about Ukrainian atrocities using footage of a 2012 Russian operation in North Caucasus.[660] In the same month, the Russian news network Life presented a 2013 photograph of a wounded child in Syria as a victim of Ukrainian troops who had just retaken Donetsk International Airport.[661] In June 2014, several Russian state news outlets reported that Ukraine was using white phosphorus using 2004 footage of white phosphorus being used by the United States in Iraq.[660] In July 2014, Channel One Russia broadcast an interview with a woman who said that a 3-year-old boy who spoke Russian was crucified by Ukrainian nationalists in a fictitious square in Sloviansk.[662][663][658][660]

In 2022, Russian state media told stories of genocide and mass graves full of ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine. One set of graves outside Luhansk was dug when intense fighting in 2014 cut off the electricity in the local morgue. Amnesty International investigated 2014 Russian claims of mass graves filled with hundreds of bodies and instead found isolated incidents of extrajudicial executions by both sides.[664][665]

Putin and Russian media have described the government of Ukraine as being led by neo-Nazis persecuting ethnic Russians who are in need of protection by Russia, despite the fact that Ukraine's President Zelensky is Jewish.[666][667][665]

Reactions to the Russian invasion in Crimea

Ukrainian response

File:Безводный Северо-Крымский канал.jpg
Following Russia's annexation of Crimea, Ukraine blocked the North Crimean Canal, which provided 85% of Crimea's drinking and irrigation water.[668]

Interim Ukrainian President Oleksandr Turchynov accused Russia of "provoking a conflict" by backing the seizure of the Crimean parliament building and other government offices on the Crimean peninsula. He compared Russia's military actions to the 2008 Russo-Georgian War, when Russian troops occupied parts of the Republic of Georgia and the breakaway enclaves of Abkhazia and South Ossetia were established under the control of Russian-backed administrations. He called on Putin to withdraw Russian troops from Crimea and stated that Ukraine will "preserve its territory" and "defend its independence".[669] On 1 March, he warned, "Military intervention would be the beginning of war and the end of any relations between Ukraine and Russia."[670]

On 1 March, Acting President Oleksandr Turchynov placed the Armed Forces of Ukraine on full alert and combat readiness.[671]

On 15 April 2014, the Law of Ukraine No. 1207-VII "On Securing the Rights and Freedoms of Citizens and the Legal Regime on the Temporarily Occupied Territory of Ukraine" was adopted.[672]

On 16 September 2015, the Ukrainian parliament voted for the law that sets 20 February 2014 as the official date of the Russian temporary occupation of Crimean peninsula.[673][674] On 7 October 2015 the President of Ukraine signed the law into force.[675]

The Ministry of Temporarily Occupied Territories and IDPs was established by Ukrainian government on 20 April 2016 to manage occupied parts of Donetsk, Luhansk and Crimea regions affected by Russian military intervention of 2014.[676]

On 11 March 2021, the National Security and Defense Council ordered the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) to investigate possible treason committed by 236 Ukrainian lawmakers who voted in 2010 to allow the Russian Black Sea Fleet to maintain a permanent base in the Crimean city of Sevastopol until 2042.[677]

On 13 February 2022, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmygal announced a $592 million fund to "guarantee the continuation of flights through Ukrainian airspace", as reported by Reuters.[678]

NATO and United States military response

US officials Assistant Secretary Nuland and Ambassador to Ukraine Pyatt greet Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in Warsaw on 4 June 2014
File:2CR returns home to Vilseck (16999448822).jpg
A U.S. Army convoy in Vilseck, Germany during Operation Atlantic Resolve, NATO's efforts to reassert its military presence in central and eastern Europe that began in April 2014.
File:BTR-70 Fearless Guardian.jpg
U.S. Paratroopers and Ukrainian National Guard during the Fearless Guardian exercise near Yavoriv, Ukraine, 6 June 2015

On 4 March 2014, the United States pledged $1 billion in aid to Ukraine.[679] Russia's actions increased tensions in nearby countries historically within its sphere of influence, particularly the Baltic and Moldova. All have large Russian-speaking populations, and Russian troops are stationed in the breakaway Moldovan territory of Transnistria.[680] Some devoted resources to increasing defensive capabilities,[681] and many requested increased support from the U.S. and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which they had joined in recent years.[680][681] The conflict "reinvigorated" NATO, which had been created to face the Soviet Union, but had devoted more resources to "expeditionary missions" in recent years.[682]

In 2014, Alexander Vershbow said, that Russia "have declared NATO as an adversary", adding, that NATO must do the same.[683] Initial deployments in March and early April were restricted to increased air force monitoring and training in the Baltics and Poland, and single ships in the Black Sea.[683][684] On 16 April, officials announced the deployment of ships to the Baltic and Mediterranean Seas, and increasing exercises in "Eastern Europe". The measures were apparently limited so as not to appear aggressive.[685] Leaders emphasized that the conflict was not a new Cold War[686] but Robert Legvold disagreed.[686] Others[who?] supported applying George F. Kennan's concept of containment to possible Russian expansion.[687][688] Former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul said, "We are enduring a drift of disengagement in world affairs. As we pull back, Russia is pushing forward. I worry about the new nationalism that Putin has unleashed and understand that many young Russians also embrace these extremist ideas."[689]

Beginning 23 April 600 US troops from the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team held bilateral exercises in Poland and the Baltic.[690] Plans were made for a communications mission to counter Russian propaganda in eastern Ukraine, improve internal Ukrainian military communication, and handle apparent Russian infiltration of the security services.[691]

In addition to diplomatic support in its conflict with Russia, the U.S. provided Ukraine with US$1.5 billion in military aid during the 2010s.[692] In 2018 the U.S. House of Representatives passed a provision blocking any training of Azov Battalion of the Ukrainian National Guard by American forces. In previous years, between 2014 and 2017, the U.S. House of Representatives passed amendments banning support of Azov, but due to pressure from the Pentagon, the amendments were quietly lifted.[693][694][695] On 24 September 2019 the U.S. House of Representatives initiated an impeachment inquiry against incumbent U.S. president Donald Trump in the wake of scandal surrounding a phone conversation that Trump had with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on 25 July.[696] In December 2021, Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin spoke on the phone for two hours and they discussed the issue. Biden mentioned that he would put sanctions on Russia if Russian army men entered Ukraine.[697]

Georgia intensified its push for entry into NATO. It had hoped to gain Membership Action Plan status in September.[698] It also expressed interest in a missile defence system via NATO.[699]

Baltic states

On 5 March 2014 the Pentagon announced, independently of NATO, that it would send six fighter jets and a refuelling aircraft to augment the four already participating in the Baltic Air Policing mission.[700][701] The US rotation was due to last through the end of April.[700] The Polish Air Force was scheduled to participate from 1 May through 31 August 2014.[702]

  • Throughout the second half of March 2014, the UK, France, the Czech Republic, and Denmark all offered aircraft to augment the Polish rotation. UK officials announced plans to send six Eurofighter Typhoon.[703] Over the next two weeks, France offered four fighters, and anonymous officials mentioned possible air support for Poland and stationing AWACs in Poland and Romania.[704][705] The Czech Republic offered to deploy fighter aircraft to interested countries bordering or near Ukraine.[705] Denmark planned to send six F-16 fighters.[706]
  • After some consideration,[707] Germany's Defence Ministry committed to sending six Eurofighters (to reinforce the Portuguese rotation beginning in September 2014[708]) and leading "minesweeping maneuvers" in the Baltic Sea.[685] A multinational group of four minesweeper ships and a supply ship from the Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 1 left Kiel, Germany on 22 April 2014.[709]
  • Swedish, Lithuanian, and US aircraft took part in exercises over the Baltic in early April 2014.[710][711] The US was considering establishing a small but "continuous" military force in the Baltic to reassure its allies.[712] NATO and Estonia agreed to base aircraft at the Ämari Air Base, which was reportedly possible due to the increased number of planes offered by allies.[713] The Lithuanian defence ministry reported that the number of Russian planes flying close to the border had increased in January and February 2014.[714]

Black and Mediterranean Seas

An Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, USS Truxtun, crossed into the Black Sea on 6 March 2014 to participate in long-planned exercises with Bulgaria and Romania.[lower-alpha 3] American officials stated that it was part of a routine deployment for exercises with the Bulgarian and Romanian navies.[716][717] Truxtun left the Black Sea by 28 March, but some politicians argued that it should return as a show of support.[718] An additional 175 Marines were to be deployed to the Black Sea Rotational Force in Romania, though this was decided in late 2012.[719]

On 10 April 2014, the guided missile destroyer USS Donald Cook entered the Black Sea to "reassure NATO allies and Black Sea partners of America's commitment to strengthen and improve interoperability while working towards mutual goals in the region", according to a Pentagon spokesman.[720][721] On 14 April, the ship was repeatedly buzzed by a Su-24 Russian attack aircraft.[722][723] Donald Cook left the Black Sea on 28 April, leaving USS Taylor.[724]

On 30 April 2014, Canada redeployed HMCS Regina from counter-terrorist operations in the Arabian Sea, likely to join Standing NATO Maritime Group 1, which had itself been reassigned to the eastern Mediterranean in response to events in Ukraine.[725]

Poland and Romania

  • Seven U.S. F-16's were scheduled to participate in a training exercise in Poland. On 6 March, it was announced that 12 fighters and 300 service personnel would go to Poland.[726] The increase was attributed to concerns over Russian activities in Crimea.[726][727] It was later announced that the detachment from the 555th Fighter Squadron would remain through the end of 2014.[728] Six F-16's were also stationed in Romania with no given departure date.[708]
  • On 10 March, NATO began using Boeing E-3 Sentry AWACS airborne radar aircraft to monitor Poland's and Lithuania's border with Kaliningrad.[729] Monitoring also took place in Romania.[730]
  • On 26 March, US and UK defence chiefs agreed to accelerate the development of the NATO missile defence system. Talks were "dominated" by the situation in Ukraine, but officials emphasized that this was not a response to Russian actions.[731]

NATO foreign ministers at a meeting in early April did not rule out stationing troops in countries near Russia, saying that Russia had "gravely breached the trust upon which our cooperation must be based".[682] Poland requested that "two heavy brigades" be stationed on its territory, to mixed responses; NATO considered increased support for Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Moldova.[732]

Relations with Russia

The Atlas Vision military exercise with Russia has been cancelled.[738] The Rapid Trident exercise in western Ukraine, scheduled for the same time, was to proceed as planned,[738][739] as was the naval exercise Sea Breeze.[739]

France suspended most military cooperation with Russia and considered halting the sale of two Mistral-class warships it had been contracted to build.[740] Canada,[741] the UK,[742] and Norway[743] all suspended cooperation to some extent. On 1 April, NATO suspended all military and civilian cooperation with Russia.[744] Russian diplomatic access to NATO headquarters was restricted.[745]

On 8 May, Russia conducted a large-scale military drill simulating US/NATO nuclear attacks. Analysts considered it to be politically motivated to compete with NATO.[746][747]

Military actions in other countries

Belarus

In March 2014, Ukraine reported that Russian units in Belarus were participating in Russia's military exercises near the Ukrainian border and expressed concern about this being a direct threat to Ukraine.[748]

Turkey

On 7 March 2014, the Turkish Air Force reported it scrambled six F-16 fighter jets after a Russian surveillance plane flew along Turkey's Black Sea coast.[749] It was the second incident of its kind reported that week, with one occurring the day before on 6 March. The Russian plane remained in international airspace. Diplomatic sources revealed that Turkey has warned Russia that if it attacks Ukraine and its Crimean Tatar population, it would blockade Russian ships' passage to the Black Sea.[750]

International diplomatic and economic responses

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Ukrainian members of parliament, 4 March 2014

Several members of the international community have expressed grave concerns over the Russian intervention in Ukraine and criticized Russia for its actions in post-revolutionary Ukraine, including the United States,[751] the United Kingdom,[752] France,[753] Germany,[754] Italy,[755] Poland,[756] Canada,[757] Japan,[758] the Netherlands,[759] Norway,[760] South Korea,[761] Georgia,[762] Moldova,[763] Turkey,[764] Australia[765] and the European Union as a whole, which condemned Russia, accusing it of breaking international law and violating Ukrainian sovereignty.[766] Many of these countries implemented economic sanctions against Russia or Russian individuals or companies, to which Russia responded in kind. Amnesty International has expressed its belief that Russia is fuelling the conflict.[767] The UN Security Council held a special meeting 1 March 2014 on the crisis.[768] The G7 countries condemned the violation of Ukraine's sovereignty, and urged Russia to withdraw.[769][770] All G7 leaders are refusing to participate in it due to assumed violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, in contravention of Russia's obligations under the UN Charter and its 1997 basing agreement with Ukraine.[771]

In 2014, OSCE Parliamentary Assembly published a statement (the "Baku Declaration") discussing the events in Ukraine in detail. Specifically, it pointed out that Russia is a signatory of the Helsinki Accords and committed to observing its rules, including respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of other member countries, as well as the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances that specifically guaranteed the integrity of Ukraine's borders. As noted by OSCE, "Russian Federation has, since February 2014, violated every one of the ten Helsinki principles in its relations with Ukraine, some in a clear, gross and thus far uncorrected manner, and is in violation with the commitments it undertook in the Budapest Memorandum, as well as other international obligations". OSCE condemned actions of the Russian Federation, calling them "coercion" and "military aggression" that are "designed to subordinate the rights inherent in Ukraine's sovereignty to the Russian Federation's own interests".[772] In 2016 OSCE deputy mission head in Ukraine Alexander Hug summarized the mission's two years of observations stating that "since the beginning of the conflict" the mission has seen "armed people with Russian insignia", vehicle tracks crossing border between Russia and Ukraine as well as talked to prisoners who were declaring themselves Russian soldiers.[773]

In January 2015, Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) accepted a resolution that noted "the direct involvement of the Russian Federation in the emergence and worsening of the situation in these parts of Ukraine" and called both sides to fully respect the terms of Minsk Agreement.[774]

In June 2015, OSCE PA repeated condemnation of "Russia's aggression against Ukraine, including its illegal annexation and occupation of Crimea" ("Helsinki Declaration").[775] On 28 August 2015 Poland's newly elected President Andrzej Duda said in Berlin during talks with German President Joachim Gauck and Chancellor Angela Merkel that Poland is already taking in large numbers of refugees from the Ukraine conflict as part of the EU's refugee programme, and does not intend to join in talks conducted since 2014 by France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine.[776] The policy of strategic partnership between Kyiv and Warsaw requires further strengthening of military and technical cooperation,[777] best exemplified by the Lithuanian–Polish–Ukrainian Brigade,[778] but the more immediate task, informed Poland's State secretary Krzysztof Szczerski, is Ukraine's constitutional reform leading to broad decentralization of power, in which Poland's post-Soviet experience is going to be used.[777]

In August 2017, President Donald Trump signed the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), which has targeted Russia's oil and gas industry, defence and security sectors, and financial institutions.[779][780] Trump's administration imposed sanctions on several third countries for buying Russian weapons.[781][782]

Financial markets

The initial reaction to the escalation of tensions in Crimea caused the Russian and European stock market to tumble.[783] The intervention caused the Swiss franc climbed to a 2-year high against the dollar and 1-year high against the Euro. The Euro and the US dollar both rose, as did the Australian dollar.[784] The Russian stock market declined by more than 10 percent, whilst the Russian ruble hit all-time lows against the US dollar and the Euro.[785][786][787] The Russian central bank hiked interest rates and intervened in the foreign exchange markets to the tune of $12 billion to try to stabilize its currency.[784] Prices for wheat and grain rose, with Ukraine being a major exporter of both crops.[788]

Later in March 2014, the reaction of the financial markets to the Crimea annexation was surprisingly mellow, with global financial markets rising immediately after the referendum held in Crimea, one explanation being that the sanctions were already priced in following the earlier Russian incursion.[789] Other observers considered that the positive reaction of the global financial markets on Monday 17 March 2014, after the announcement of sanctions against Russia by the EU and the US, revealed that these sanctions were too weak to hurt Russia.[790] In early August 2014, the German DAX was down by 6 percent for the year, and 11 percent since June, over concerns Russia, Germany's 13th biggest trade partner, would retaliate against sanctions.[791]

Reactions to the Russian intervention in Donbas

  • Amnesty International considers the war to be "an international armed conflict" and presented an independent satellite photo analysis proving involvement of regular Russian army in the conflict. It accuses Ukrainian militia and separatist forces as being responsible for war crimes and has called on all parties, including Russia, to stop violations of the laws of war.[767] Amnesty has expressed its belief that Russia is fueling the conflict, 'both through direct interference and by supporting the separatists in the East' and called on Russia to 'stop the steady flow of weapons and other support to an insurgent force heavily implicated in gross human rights violations.'[767]
  •  NATO – The Russian government's decision to send a truck convoy into Luhansk on 22 August 2014 without Ukrainian consent was condemned by NATO and several NATO member states, including the United States.[792] NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen called it "a blatant breach of Russia's international commitments" and "a further violation of Ukraine's sovereignty by Russia".[793]
  •  European Union – Leaders warned that Russia faced harsher economic sanctions than the EU had previously imposed if it failed to withdraw troops from Ukraine.[794] In 2015 the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe [PACE] published a resolution that openly speaks about a "Russian aggression in Ukraine".[795]
  •  Ukraine – Chairman of the Ukrainian Parliament Oleksandr Turchynov said "It's a hybrid war that Russia has begun against Ukraine, a war with the participation of the Russian security services and the army."[796]
  •  United States – US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power commented on the invasion by noting that "At every step, Russia has come before this council to say everything but the truth. It has manipulated, obfuscated and outright lied. Russia has to stop lying and has to stop fuelling this conflict."[246][797] The United States government said it supported stiffer sanctions as well.[798]
  • Nordic countries  – On 9 April 2015, a joint declaration by the ministers of defence of Norway, Denmark, Finland and Sweden and the minister of foreign affairs of Iceland (which does not have a ministry of defence) was brought by the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten. The declaration first asserts that the Russian aggression against Ukraine and the illegal annexation of Crimea is a violation of international law and other international treaties and that the Nordic countries must judge Russia not by the rhetoric of the Kremlin, but by the actions of the country. After pointing out that Russia has increased its military exercise and intelligence gathering activity in the Baltic and Northern areas violating Nordic borders and jeopardizing civilian air traffic, the declaration states the intention of the Nordic countries to face this new situation with solidarity and increased cooperation. The Nordic unity commitment is extended to include solidarity with the Baltic countries and to a collaboration within NATO and EU to strengthen also the unity within these entities and to maintain the cross-Atlantic link.[799]

Russian protests

Protests in Moscow, 21 September 2014

Street protests against the war in Ukraine have arisen in Russia itself. Notable protests first occurred in March[800][801] and large protests occurred in September when "tens of thousands" protested the war in Ukraine with a peace march in downtown Moscow on Sunday, 21 September 2014, "under heavy police supervision".[802]

Critics of Vladimir Putin also express cautious criticism in the press and social media. Garry Kasparov, a consistent critic of Putin, whom he has called "a revanchist KGB thug", has written[803] on the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 shootdown and called for Western action.[804][805]

An August 2014 survey by the Levada Centre reported that only 13% of those Russians polled would support the Russian government in an open war with Ukraine.[806]

Pro-Russian supporters in Donetsk, 20 December 2014

Former Russian vice-minister of foreign affairs Georgy Kunadze (1991 –1993) said that if Western policy toward Russia had been tougher in 2008, during the Russo-Georgian War, "there would be no Crimea nor Lugandon" (the latter was a reference to the LPR).[807]

Ukrainian public opinion

A poll of the Ukrainian public, excluding Russian-annexed Crimea, was taken by the International Republican Institute from 12 to 25 September 2014.[808] 89% of those polled opposed 2014 Russian military intervention in Ukraine. As broken down by region, 78% of those polled from Eastern Ukraine (including Dnipropetrovsk Oblast) opposed said intervention, along with 89% in Southern Ukraine, 93% in Central Ukraine, and 99% in Western Ukraine.[808] As broken down by native language, 79% of Russian speakers and 95% of Ukrainian speakers opposed the intervention. 80% of those polled said the country should remain a unitary country.[808]

A poll of the Crimean public in Russian-annexed Crimea was taken by the Ukrainian branch of Germany's biggest market research organization, GfK, on 16–22 January 2015. According to its results: "Eighty-two percent of those polled said they fully supported Crimea's inclusion in Russia, and another 11 percent expressed partial support. Only 4 percent spoke out against it."[809][810][811]

United States weapons supply

The deliveries of the United States lethal aid to Ukraine included .50 BMG caliber ammunition, M141 Bunker Defeat Munition and FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank missiles.[812] US also intends to transfer Mi-17 helicopters to Ukraine, previously used by Afghan Air Force.[813] In January 2022, the Biden administration approved deliveries of U.S.-made FIM-92 Stinger surface-to-air missiles to Ukraine.[528] On 21 January 2022, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki stated that "In the last year alone, we committed $650 million in security assistance to Ukraine; in total, since 2014, we've committed $2.7 billion. These deliveries are ongoing, including today there's more deliveries coming."[814][815][816][817]

International reaction

File:Talks between Vladimir Putin and President of the United States Joseph Biden.jpg
U.S. President Joe Biden holds a video call with Russian President Vladimir Putin on 7 December 2021

In March 2014, Estonia's president Toomas Hendrik Ilves said: "Justification of a military invasion by a fabricated need to protect ethnic "compatriots" resuscitates the arguments used to annex Sudetenland in 1938."[818] During the Group of 20 (G-20) summit of world leaders in Brisbane, Australia in November 2014, an incident occurred during private meetings that became quite public. At the private leaders' retreat, held the weekend before the official opening of the summit, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper told Russian President Vladimir Putin "I guess I'll shake your hand but I have only one thing to say to you: You need to get out of Ukraine." The incident occurred as Putin approached Harper and a group of G-20 leaders and extended his hand toward Harper. After the event was over, a "spokesman for the Russian delegation said Putin's response was: 'That's impossible because we are not there'."[819]

In March 2015, NATO's top commander in Europe General Philip M. Breedlove has been criticized by German politicians and diplomats as spreading "dangerous propaganda" by constantly inflating the figures of Russian military involvement in an attempt to subvert the diplomatic solution of the war in Donbas spearheaded by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.[820][821] According to Germany's Der Spiegel magazine, "the German government, supported by intelligence gathered by the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), Germany's foreign intelligence agency, did not share the view of NATO's Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR)."[820]

In 2017, Ukraine opened a case against Russia for involvement and financing of terrorism and racial discrimination in military occupied Autonomous Republic of Crimea and part of Donbas.[822][823]

In 2022, UK defence minister Ben Wallace characterized President Putin's article "On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians" as "a seven-thousand-word essay that puts ethnonationalism at the heart of his ambitions… It provides the skewed and selective reasoning to justify, at best, the subjugation of Ukraine and at worse the forced unification of that sovereign country."[824]

A Normandy Format meeting was planned between Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France in Paris on 26 January 2022,[825] with a follow-up phone call between French President Emmanuel Macron and Russian President Putin.[826] Ukraine fulfilled Russia's condition for a meeting in Paris and decided to withdraw from Parliament the controversial draft law on the reintegration of the Crimea and Donbas region, because the law was contrary to the Minsk peace agreements.[827][828]

In February 2022, Russia held the rotating presidency of the United Nations Security Council, and diplomats from other countries warned that Russia could take advantage of the UNSC presidency to delay meetings on actions by Russia.[829]

Reactions to the 2022 full-scale invasion of Ukraine

See also

Notes

  1. There remain "some contradictions and inherent problems" regarding date on which the annexation began.[2] Ukraine claims 20 February 2014 as the date of "the beginning of the temporary occupation of Crimea and Sevastopol by Russia", citing timeframe inscribed on the Russian medal "For the Return of Crimea",[3] and in 2015 the Ukrainian parliament officially designated the date as such.[4] On 20 February 2014, Vladimir Konstantinov who at that time was a chairman of the republican council of Crimea and representing the Party of Regions expressed his thoughts about seccession of the region from Ukraine.[5] On 23 February 2014 the Russian ambassador to Ukraine Mikhail Zurabov was recalled to Moscow to due "worsening of situation in Ukraine". In early March 2015, President Putin stated in a Russian movie about annexation of Crimea that he ordered the operation to "restore" Crimea to Russia following an all-night emergency meeting of 22–23 February 2014,[2][6] and in 2018 Russian Foreign Minister claimed that earlier "start date" on the medal was due to "technical misunderstanding".[7]
  2. Russian: pоссийско-украинская война; Ukrainian: російсько-українська війна.
  3. Baldor (2014) "A U.S. warship is also now in the Black Sea to participate in long-planned exercises."[715]

References

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Further reading

  • Bowen, Andrew (2017). "Coercive Diplomacy and the Donbas: Explaining Russian Strategy in Eastern Ukraine". Journal of Strategic Studies. 42 (3–4): 312–343. doi:10.1080/01402390.2017.1413550. S2CID 158522112.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Bremmer, Ian (1994). "The Politics of Ethnicity: Russians in the New Ukraine". Europe-Asia Studies. 46 (2): 261–283. doi:10.1080/09668139408412161.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Hagendoorn, A.; Linssen, H.; Tumanov, S. V. (2001). Intergroup Relations in States of the former Soviet Union: The Perception of Russians. New York: Taylor & Francis. ISBN 978-1-84169-231-9.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Legvold, Robert (2013). Russian Foreign Policy in the Twenty-first Century and the Shadow of the Past. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 978-0-231-51217-6.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links