Russia has been steadily building up its forces on Ukraine's border, and many observers feared that Russia was waiting to invade at the most opportune moment. But instead of invading, Russian troops are reportedly retreating from eastern Ukraine.
Ukrainian officials fear that Russian President Vladimir Putin is deliberately sending troops back over the border to prepare for an attack, but US officials insist that the movement of troops may be part of an attempt to pressure Kyiv into a political settlement.
"We are not going to put any troops on the line unless our partners in Kyiv seriously start taking steps toward compromise," said State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau on Friday. Once they do, we will continue flexing our diplomatic muscles, and we'll continue to encourage financial sanctions because Russia has serious consequences if it continues this occupation of Crimea.
Moreover, day by day, Putin is putting pressure on the West to find a solution that will not punish Moscow for seizing Crimea in what was previously thought to be a fait accompli, said Sergei Strokan, foreign affairs columnist for the Moscow-based newspaper Kommersant. The Kremlin is doing everything it can to put pressure on Kyiv and coax it into holding negotiations.
The United States, the European Union, and Ukraine have imposed sanctions on Russia for its actions in Ukraine, but there is debate about how well the strategy has worked. Many Western experts believe that Putin may be willing to relinquish the territories he has occupied only if Russia obtains enough concessions through negotiations with Kyiv.
"Russian troops are not withdrawing," argued independent political analyst Stanislav Belkovsky. Putin is actually waiting for the West to force Kyiv to agree to negotiations. The question is what Putin wants in terms of territorial concessions or other compromises from Ukraine.
From the side of Belkovsky:
Further, Belkovsky said that if Putin remains content with Crimea, he may demand that the United States and Europe recognize the disputed peninsula or that Russian be recognized as an official language [in addition to Ukrainian] in Crimea. If he makes more serious territorial claims, there will be a real war.
NEW ASSAULTS AND POWER CUTS
According to a statement released by the Ukrainian military on Thursday night, Russian forces have shelled Ukrainian targets more than 40 times, launched three missiles, and conducted 16 airstrikes against Ukrainian objectives in the last 24 hours.
According to the statement, the Russian fire on the southern front damaged more than 35 villages, and there were more than 30 drone surveillance missions.
According to a statement from the Ukrainian foreign ministry, the Russian government forced "massive numbers of residents" from the provinces of Kherson and Zaporizhia in the south and the regions of Luhansk and Donetsk in the east, "to the temporarily occupied Crimean territory or the Russian Federation."
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