2:56 pm, December 25, 2021
Military exercises took place in several regions near Ukraine. According to Interfax, this included Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014, as well as the Rostov and Kuban regions in southern Russia.
The dispatch of tens of thousands of Russian soldiers to the border with Ukraine has raised concerns in Western countries and in the Ukrainian government that Russia is planning an attack on its neighboring country. The government in Moscow has repeatedly denied this. Instead, it demands security guarantees from the West, including a NATO commitment not to expand eastward. Ukraine, in turn, wants to join the Western military alliance.
It is estimated that the Russian military recently sent between 60 and 90,000 soldiers to the border with Ukraine. And US intelligence documents said that this number could rise to 175,000.
NATO responds immediately
The West expressed its readiness for dialogue on Saturday. Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has decided to convene the NATO-Russia Council in January for the first time in two and a half years, a NATO official confirmed Saturday. It was said that they are in contact with Russia in this regard. The Russian Foreign Ministry confirmed receipt of the proposal, but also said it was still being studied. The format and timing have not yet been clarified. “But we are open to dialogue,” TASS spokeswoman Maria Sakharov said.
The NATO official referred to the NATO statement on the tense situation on the Russian-Ukrainian border on December 16. It states, among other things, that any dialogue with Russia must be on a reciprocal basis and address NATO’s concerns about Russia’s actions.
Meanwhile, the situation in eastern Ukraine does not appear to be calming down after a new ceasefire attempt. On Saturday night, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) reported more than 200 violations in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. The information is based on observations made on Thursday. The parties to the conflict had previously agreed to return to the ceasefire that had been agreed upon a year and a half ago.
And the Ukrainian army announced, on Saturday morning, that the other side had violated the agreement five times the previous day. A soldier was wounded. This information cannot be independently verified at first. Shortly before Christmas, Germany and France, as mediators, called for “full compliance” with the ceasefire.
The conflict in eastern Ukraine has been going on since 2014. According to United Nations estimates, more than 13,000 people have died there so far.
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