Sabre-rattling or preparations for war? because mid-March, there have been many warnings from Ukraine and Western federal governments that Russia is massing troops in Russian-annexed Crimea and around the eastern Ukraine dispute zone.

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Russia's intentions are far from clear, however here's a rapid guide to the recent developments.

Multiple sources have reported big Russian armed forces movements in the direction of the eastern Ukraine border and also into Crimea, which Russian forces linked from Ukraine in march 2014. Countless of these reports have appeared on Twitter, such as tweets through Jane's intelligence details group about Iskander short-range missiles.

The Kremlin has actually not provided details. Chairman Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said relocating troops across Russian are was one "internal affair". Few of the troops, consisting of units in Crimea, have actually been top top exercises. But Mr Peskov also accused Ukraine of staging "provocations".

Ukrainian knowledge sources told the that the extra forces amount come 16 battalion tactical groups, which would certainly be up to 14,000 soldiers. In total, follow to the Ukrainian presidency, Russia currently has around 40,000 top top the east border and around 40,000 in Crimea.

On 13 April Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu accused Nato that "threatening" actions and said Russia had actually responded by sending out two armies and also three formations that airborne troops to its west borders, to command exercises. He provided no thorough figures or locations.

So is this an intrusion force? It could be, but analysts say a large invasion is unlikely. Infiltration would be an ext Russia's tried-and-trusted method. Russian special pressures without insignia - nicknamed "little environment-friendly men" - took end Crimea in 2014.


Nato Secretary general Jens Stoltenberg dubbed the brand-new Russian build-up "unjustified and also deeply concerning" and also said it was "the largest massing that Russian troops since the illegal addition of Crimea".

Ukraine, Nato and Western governments have also long accused Russia that deploying continual units and heavy tools in separatist-held eastern Ukraine. The Kremlin denies that and calls any kind of Russian troops there "volunteers".

Speaking in ~ Nato HQ in Brussels, Ukrainian international Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Russia to be "openly threaten Ukraine v war and destruction of our statehood". Yet unlike in 2014, that added, "Russia won't have the ability to catch anyone by surprise anymore".

Russian-Ukrainian relations now are definitely hostile, yet it is not all-out war. There room sporadic clashes on the prior line.

Since the collapse of communist in 1991, Russian troops have intervened in conflicts in several areas of the former Soviet Union, notably in Chechnya and other parts of the Caucasus.

In April 2014, simply after Russia's addition of Crimea, pro-Russian separatists seized a huge swathe of east Ukraine's Donetsk and also Luhansk regions. Earlier, months of pro-Western demonstrations in Ukraine's capital Kyiv had forced out a pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovych.

Mr Kuleba recalled that in 2014 there was a Russian plan to separation Ukraine and create one entity called "Novorossiya" (New Russia) - a arrangement foiled by Ukraine's armed forces.

The conflict zone, well-known as Donbas, is greatly Russian-speaking and also now numerous of its residents have actually Russian passports. President Putin says Russia will defend Russian citizens abroad, if they room seen to be at risk.

Russia's usage of unique forces, cyberwarfare and also propaganda in this and also other conflicts is recognized as "hybrid warfare" - not a hot war, but not a frozen problem either. A united state special report for Congress last year highlighted the function of the GRU, Russia's military intelligence agency.

There was large-scale combat in 2014, prior to a ceasefire in 2015. There have actually been part prisoner exchanges because then.

More than 13,000 world have been killed in the conflict. Ukraine states 26 that its troops have died in Donbas so far this year, contrasted to 50 in every one of 2020. The separatists say more than 20 of theirs have died this year.

Image source, EPA

Russia-Ukraine experts including Pavel Felgengauer and James Sherr note several factors exacerbating tensions.

In February, Ukraine's chairman Volodymyr Zelensky implemented sanctions top top Viktor Medvedchuk, a powerful Ukrainian oligarch and friend of chairman Putin. Ukraine additionally banned broadcasts by 3 pro-Russian TV stations.

The Minsk peace deal i agree in 2015 remains far from gift fulfilled. Because that example, there room still no species for independently monitored poll in the separatist regions.

In previous conflicts in what that calls that "near abroad", Russia has sent in troops as "peacekeepers", that have ended up staying. It happened in Moldova and South Ossetia, because that example. James Sherr claims it can well occur again in Ukraine. It would freeze the position firmly in Russia's favour.

Some speculate the Mr Putin additionally wants to test us President Joe Biden, who has actually taken a tougher view on Russia than his predecessor, Donald Trump, had.

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Mr Putin deals with parliamentary elections in September and a continuing mass movement supporting his jailed arch-critic Alexei Navalny. So the Kremlin "defending" embattled Russians in Ukraine could go under well with plenty of voters. Navalny might additionally be marginalised if the Kremlin whipped up patriotic fervour end Ukraine.

Not through treaty, as Ukraine is no a member. Yet Nato has close ties with Ukraine, which has actually received west arms consisting of US Javelin anti-tank missiles. So Russia knows the it dangers provoking much more Western military assist for Ukraine.

President Zelensky has actually urged Nato to speed up Ukrainian membership. However the problem makes it an overwhelming for Nato to expropriate Ukraine under the 30-nation alliance's present terms.

Nato's Jens Stoltenberg claimed "it's for the 30 members to decide as soon as Ukraine is ready for Nato membership". But he emphasize Ukraine's special partnership with Nato now, i beg your pardon a few other countries likewise have, including Sweden, Finland and also Georgia.

"We reject the idea that Russia has a kind of veto top top other countries deciding your sovereign path," he said. The Kremlin has long warned Ukraine against joining Nato, and remains bitter the the 3 Baltic republics joined.

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Nato is help Ukraine's military with modernisation, training and joint exercises, the Nato cook said.