Tension rises in Crimea after latest Ukrainian military manoeuvres on the border

Tanks and artillery from Ukraine have carried out manoeuvres in regions close to the peninsula amid de-escalating tensions
Tanques de las Fuerzas Armadas de Ucrania se ven durante los ejercicios en un lugar desconocido cerca de la frontera de Crimea anexada a Rusia, Ucrania, en esta imagen de mano publicada por el servicio de prensa del Estado Mayor de las Fuerzas Armadas de Ucrania el 14 de abril de 2021

PHOTO/ Press Service of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine via REUTERS  -   Tanks of the Armed Forces of Ukraine are seen during exercises at an unknown location near the border of Russia-annexed Crimea, Ukraine, in this handout image released by the press service of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine on April 14, 2021

The Crimea region, illegally annexed by Russia in 2014, is witnessing manoeuvres being conducted by the Ukrainian army in the surrounding territory. As reported by the Ukrainian Joint Forces command, the manoeuvres have consisted of preparation for combat conditions with tanks and artillery. "Tanks and artillery units subordinate to the Ukrainian Joint Forces Command are training in combat conditions," explained Sergei Nayev, a lieutenant general in the Ukrainian army.

The moves come just a day after Russian actions near the Ukrainian border were carried out, according to Moscow, in response to US and NATO "provocations". Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu confirmed the recent exercises at a meeting with the Russian military leadership: "In three weeks, we have successfully moved two armies and three groupings of the Landing Forces to the western borders of our country, to the training areas". These actions come in response to what he says the country presided over by Joe Biden and NATO have done and may do, for which they say they remain vigilant and are prepared to act in accordance with the decisions that may be taken by Washington.

Un militante de la autoproclamada República Popular de Luhansk (RPL) monta guardia en las posiciones de combate en la línea de separación de las fuerzas armadas ucranianas en la región de Luhansk, Ucrania 13 de abril de 2021
REUTERS/ALEXANDER ERMOCHENKO - A militant of the self-proclaimed Luhansk People's Republic (LPR) stands guard at the fighting positions on the disengagement line of the Ukrainian armed forces in Luhansk region, Ukraine 13 April 2021

"If it worsens, we will, of course, do everything possible to ensure our own security and the security of our citizens, wherever they are". These are the words of Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Riabkov. NATO, however, has distanced itself from Moscow's accusations and expressed its desire to restore stability in the border areas of Crimea. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told a press conference that "Russia's significant military build-up is unjustified, inexplicable and very worrying. Russia must stop this build-up, stop the provocations and de-escalate immediately.

Stoltenberg also expressed his condolences for the death of one Ukrainian serviceman - two more were injured - following the incident that resulted from the ceasefire violation in the separatist regions in the east. Worryingly, this attack is nothing new as it has been preceded by several in recent days, causing alarm bells to ring in Kiev, as reported by the local Ukrinform news agency. This is one of the reasons why NATO is considering various strategies to increase its support for the Ukrainian country in the face of rising tensions in the region.

El ministro de Defensa ruso Sergei Shoigu habla mientras visita una base naval en Gadzhiyevo, Rusia, el martes 13 de abril de 2021. Shoigu describió el martes un enorme refuerzo militar en el oeste de Rusia como parte de los simulacros destinados a comprobar la preparación de las fuerzas armadas en medio de las amenazas que plantea la OTAN
PHOTO/ Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP - Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu speaks as he visits a naval base in Gadzhiyevo, Russia, Tuesday, April 13, 2021. Shoigu on Tuesday described a massive military buildup in western Russia as part of drills aimed at testing the readiness of the armed forces amid threats posed by NATO

"NATO is on the side of Ukraine". This was made clear by the NATO Secretary General, who has been demonstrating this support for Kiev for some time. Recent joint exercises have been conducted, as well as an increased presence in the Baltic and Black Sea region. Not forgetting, of course, NATO's increased investment in defence policy. Jens Stoltenberg used the press conference to condemn, once again, Russia's illegal annexation of the territory of Crimea, as well as the recognition of Ukrainian sovereignty over the region.

Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine's Foreign Minister, welcomed the NATO Secretary General's words and said that "Russia will not take anyone else by surprise", referring to the occupation of Crimea. He was also very critical of those who associated Ukraine as a Russian satellite, to which he responded very forcefully, saying that the country presided over by Vladimir Putin "must understand that Ukraine belongs to the democratic and Western world. And the West will not allow Russia to break Ukrainian sovereignty and democracy".

El Secretario General de la OTAN, Jens Stoltenberg, a la derecha, y el Secretario de Estado de los Estados Unidos, Antony Blinken, se dirigen a una conferencia de prensa en la sede de la OTAN en Bruselas, el miércoles 14 de abril de 2021
AP/JOHANNA GERON - NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, right, and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken address a news conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Wednesday, April 14, 2021.

What is clear to both NATO and Kiev is that it is vital to avoid direct confrontation at all costs, something they do not envisage in any scenario. However, Russia's latest moves leave no room for complacency, and Kuleba says that "the measures we are talking about may seem to come at a high cost. But the price of prevention will always be lower than the price of war and mitigating its consequences. It is better to act now to prevent Russia from escalating the situation".