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Ukraine

Borrell describes 150,000 Russian troops deployed to Ukraine border as ‘highest ever’

Catherine Feore

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At today’s (19 April) Foreign Affairs Council, European Union foreign ministers discussed Russia’s increased military activities in Eastern Ukraine and the illegally annexed Ukrainian region of Crimea with the Ukrainian Foreign Affairs Minister Dmytro Kuleba. EU High Representative Josep Borrell urged Russia to de-escalate and commended the Ukrainian government for its restraint.

Borrell described the build-up of troops as "the highest military deployment of the Russian army at the Ukrainian border ever”, saying that more than 150,000 Russian troops had been deployed, as well as all kinds of materials for warfare as well, including field hospitals. He said that the risk of further escalation was evident. Minister Kuleba briefed the ministers on the higher number of casualties compared to the same time last year and described the situation as, “very worrisome”.

The message from all EU ministers was clear, offering their strong support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Both Chancellor Merkel and President Biden have made direct requests to Putin to withdraw this deployment. 

The EPP Group in the European Parliament requests a parliamentary debate in next week’s plenary session on the current Russian military build-up at the Ukrainian border.

“It is Europe’s collective duty to reaffirm our support for Ukraine and we would like to hear from the Presidents of the European Commission and the European Council on how the European Union intends to do it,” said Sandra Kalniete MEP, vice chairwoman of the EPP Group responsible for foreign affairs. “The situation is deteriorating and is a serious and growing threat to European stability and security as well as to Ukrainian sovereignty.”

“The EU and the member states have to start to deliver on their declarations: we must assist Ukraine militarily in terms of strengthening capabilities and also politically. It has to be made clear without any delay by the highest authorities of the European Union. In addition, together with our partners, it is time to grant the NATO Membership Action Plan to Ukraine,” she concluded.

The other focus of the discussion was the further implementation of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, and notably the EU's continued engagement with Ukraine to ensure sustained reform efforts, especially on strengthening the rule of law. Ministers will be invited to reflect on how the EU can further enhance its sectoral cooperation in areas like climate policy. The EU will also continue to work with Ukraine in the fight against OVID-19, in particular through assistance with vaccination.

Defence

Biden to join eastern European NATO states summit, focus seen on Ukraine

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US President Joe Biden (pictured) joined a virtual summit of eastern European NATO states held in the Romanian capital Bucharest on Monday (10 May), Romanian President Klaus Iohannis said, with a focus on security in the Black Sea region and Ukraine.

The summit of the Bucharest Nine, a group of European countries on the eastern edge of NATO, will be jointly hosted by Iohannis and Poland's President Andrzej Duda and aims at coordinating the security positions of countries in the region.

"Glad to welcome Joe Biden to the Bucharest9 Summit which I host in Bucharest today," Iohannis said on his Twitter account.

"Together with President Andrzej Duda we'll also welcome ... Jens Stoltenberg in preparation of NATO Summit, focusing on Transatlantic ties, NATO 2030, defence and deterrence on the eastern flank."

Biden, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and the presidents of Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovakia will video-conference into the gathering.

"In ... the statement that the nine will publish after the meeting there will be the issue of security in the Black Sea region and the related security issues in Ukraine," the head of Poland's National Security Bureau, Pawel Soloch, told reporters.

Earlier this month, Washington said it could increase security help for Kyiv after Russia moved troops near its border with Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region, where Ukrainian troops are in conflict with Moscow-backed separatists.

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coronavirus

Ukraine's capital Kyiv eases coronavirus restrictions

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Ukraine's capital Kyiv on Saturday (1 May) eased tough restrictions imposed last month to prevent the rapid spread of the new coronavirus.

In early April, Kyiv limited its public transport services, closed schools and kindergartens, theatres and shopping centres, and banned spectators from sporting events.

Starting from Saturday, the capital will allow the operation of transport, cafes and restaurants, although passenger and customer numbers will be restricted. Wearing masks is still mandatory in transport and public places.

Shopping malls and sports clubs were able to reopen on Saturday, while schools and kindergartens will open from 5 May, local authorities said.

Last month, Kyiv recorded some of highest numbers of new infections among Ukrainian regions, but new cases dropped significantly last week.

Ukraine has registered more than 2 million infections and 44,436 deaths since the pandemic started last year.

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Russia

Ukraine says withdrawal of Russian troops is not enough to resolve conflict in Donbass

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Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Friday (23 April) that withdrawal of Russian military forces from the border with Ukraine could ease tensions but the step alone would not stop the escalation or the conflict in the eastern Donbass region.

In a statement, Kuleba also urged Ukraine's Western partners to continue to monitor the situation closely and to take effective measures to deter Russia.

Russia announced on Thursday it was ordering troops back to base from the area near the border with Ukraine, apparently calling an end to a buildup of tens of thousands of soldiers that had alarmed the West. Read more

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