Russia's Military Escalation Against Ukraine: LIVE UPDATES

November 15, 2021
The situation around Donbas is escalating as Russia is increasing its military presence along Ukraine’s border. Here are regular updates.

As Russia has again started amassing forces on Ukraine’s eastern border, we decided to renew our regular updates concerning the escalation.

26 November, key updates:

  • Zelensky said that Putin should publicly declare that Russia is not planning a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Ukraine’s President spoke at his press marathon in Kyiv, on Friday.
  • Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said that narratives of the military ecalation in Ukraine are part of Russia’s information war. The "hysteria" it is creating among the Russian population might help to furtherly justify possible aggression in the future, Reznikov said.
  • London-based defense-intelligence firm Janes confirmed that Russia had been moving forces to Crimea as part of a large military buildup on Ukraine’s border. Battle tanks and other heavy weaponry are deployed to the Voronezh region of Russia, Bloomberg reported.

25 November, key updates:

  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the EU should be ready to impose additional sanctions on Russia if the situation in eastern Ukraine and near Ukraine's borders border gets worse.
  • With the current pace of Russia’s troop transfer, by the beginning of next year, the number of its troops at the Ukrainian border and in Crimea “would be significantly higher” than during the last serious crisis in April. The new investigation has been published by Conflict Intelligence Team.
  • Canada considers boosting military aid to Ukraine, the Globe and Mail reported. It might either 1)transfer several hundred troops in support of Canadian soldiers who are on a training mission in Ukraine, or 2) move the warship to the Black Sea or redeploy some CF-18 fighter jets which are currently based in Romania.
  • On Tuesday, Ukraine tested its new Javelin anti-tank missile systems for the first time since the U.S. approved the sale of the weapon system to Ukraine.

24 November, updates on analytics:

  • The invasion of Ukraine “is unlikely to be imminent”, Reuters draws conclusions from conversations with their sources in Western intelligence and Russian experts on the Kremlin. Instead, the threat of military force might be used “to signal that Russia is serious about defending its "red lines" on Ukraine”. For Putin, the cost of full invasion would be too high, experts comment.
  • Russia won’t let Ukraine go without a fight, reads the latest analysis at Foreign Affairs. With the recent geopolitical developments, the domestic situation in Russia and Ukraine, Putin has the stage set to use military force against Ukraine’s “growing integration with the U.S. and NATO", Michael Kimmage and Michael Kofman wrote. As Moscow is tired of diplomacy and sees no "acceptable" political solution in Ukraine, the authors say, it might likely resort to a wider war scenario in order to deter Ukraine from becoming an instrument against Russia in hands of the U.S. While for the Kremlin, "resorting to military options will be less costly now than it will be in the future", Washigton should be prepared "to conduct anticipatory coordination with European allies, and to make clear the consequences of such action to Moscow", the Foreign Affairs analysis suggests.
  • Ukraine will unlikely be Putin's final territorial demand in Europe, Stephen Blank writes for the Center of European Policy Anaysis. "If the US accedes to [Russia's] blackmail, it will be the first step toward the destruction of the European status quo and the acceptance that Russian threats of war are a greater policy imperative than long-standing American guarantees in Europe and beyond Europe", he concludes.

23 November, key updates of the past two days:

  • U.S. intelligence has shared its data, including maps, with European allies, suggesting that Russia is preparing for a rapid large-scale offensive against Ukraine in several locations, namely, from Crimea, the Russian border and via Belarus, "covering extensive territory and prepared for a potentially prolonged occupation", Bloomberg reported.
  • Moscow dismissed concerns of the U.S., NATO and Ukrainian officials over Russia’s increasing military presence near Ukraine’s border and a possibility of attack. On Sunday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitriy Peskov said the “hysteria is being artificially whipped up”. Later, Russian state media published another Peskov’s statement, saying “Russia is not going to attack anyone”, in which he is also turning the tables on Ukraine.
  • Meanwhile, the Biden administration is weighing sending military advisers and new equipment including weaponry to Ukraine, CNN reported. The lethal aid package could include new Javelin anti-tank and anti-armor missiles as well as mortars, and air defense systems. A new sanctions package in case of Russia’s further invasion of Ukraine has been also discussed with the European allies.
  • Russia is increasing the combat readiness in the temporarily occupied territory of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts, Ukraine’s Main Intelligence Directorate reported. A mobilized reserve, units of law enforcement agencies, and occupation administrations are taking part in the large-scale command and staff training of Donetsk and Luhansk formations. They have initiated a proposal for permission to officially call up Russian citizens for military service under contract in 1 and 2 military units of the AK, Ukraine's intelligence said. The command of the Russian armed forces is also agitating the population in the Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts for military service as part of the Russian occupation forces.
  • Ukraine is ready for Russia's attack, Ukraine’s Defense Minister Alexei Reznikov stated on ICTV channel. The country has 200,000 reserve personnel of the territorial defense, in addition to the regular army, he explained.
  • Two U.S. Coast Guard patrol boats intended to strenghten the Ukrainian navy have arrived Tuesday at the southern port of Odesa.

22 November, key updates of the past few days:

  • In his interview with Military Times, Kyrylo Budanov, Chief of Ukraine’s Defense Intelligence, warns of Russia’s plans to attack Ukraine in late January. According to him, such an attack would likely involve airstrikes, artillery and armor attacks followed by airborne assaults in the east, amphibious assaults in Odesa and Mariupul and a smaller incursion through neighboring Belarus.
  • In the light of a huge military build-up along Ukrainian borders, Dmitriy Peskov, a spokesperson of president Vladimir Putin, blamed Ukraine for possible plans to “solve the situation in Donbas by force.” This is happening, according to Peskov, “under the guise of” NATO military drills and the increase in numbers of American and British soldiers in the region.
  • Jean-Yves Le Drian, France’s foreign minister, warns Russia of “grave consequences” if it invades Ukraine. “Any violation of the border, any intrusion would lead to extremely grave consequences,” Le Drian said, Bloomberg reports.
  • Oleksiy Reznikov, Ukraine’s Defense Minister, says he does not believe Russia may invade Ukraine and seize new territories. As he explained, Ukrainian military forces, which has been defending Ukraine since 2014, are able to fight back. But, if Russia’s president Vladimir Putin opts for a full-fledged invasion, he will pay high price for this, Reznikov concluded.

19 November, key updates:

  • Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary General, confirmed the increase in numbers of Russian military troops along Ukrainian borders, acknowledging Russia’s ability to act aggressively against Ukraine. “We urge Russia to be transparent with regard to its military activities. It is important to prevent escalation and ease tensions. NATO supports Ukraine,” he stressed.
  • Ukraine, together with its partners, are working on the comprehensive plan aimed at deterring Russia from further aggressive activities, Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister, told journalists. “It is about political and diplomatic pressure, painful economic punches as response to the expansion of Russian aggression, and the list of concrete needs to enhance Armed Forces of Ukraine,” Kuleba explained.
  • The Guardian in its editorial, is looking for possible motives for Russia’s President Vladimir Putin to increase tensions at Ukrainian border. Amid the recent Nord Stream-2 certification decision and the US intelligence data about the high probability of Russian military intervention, the media studies the current developments in terms of provocation or preparation. Thus, it comes to the conclusion that the military build-up “represents a de facto escalation of a conflict that, while continuing to claim lives, has remained relatively static since the Minsk II agreement was signed in 2015”. “Robust western solidarity with Kyiv will be needed to prevent a resurgence of the same in Ukraine this winter,” the media outlet concludes.

17 November, key updates:

  • Andriy Melnyk, Ukraine’s Ambassador to Germany, urges Berlin to take the fact about Russian military build-up along Ukrainian borders more seriously. As he explained, according to intelligence data, 114 thousand Russian soldiers are deployed in Donbas and near Ukrainian eastern borders. In this regard, he called on the politicians that may form ruling coalition in Germany to send “tough signals” to president Vladimir Putin.
  • If situation on Ukrainian borders aggravates, Ukraine may further count on EU’s diplomatic, economic and financial support, with Brussels continuing to act the way it has been acting since Russia annexed Crimea and started the war in Donbas, Josep Borrell, the EU High Representative/Vice-President, said. As he argued, there is no military alliance between EU and Ukraine, but there are Association Agreement and Eastern Partnership initiative, which “cover a wide range of issues”. “We have solidarity with Ukraine and we are engaged into the efforts aimed at defending and supporting Ukraine’s territorial integrity,” the diplomat emphasized.
  • David Arakhamia, head of Servant of the People (Sluha Narodu) faction, assesses the Russian troops’ build-up along Ukrainian borders as a serious signal, but calls to not “cause alarm” in the society.
  • In his interview with the Financial Times, Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister, said that Russia had created infrastructure to deploy its troops near Ukrainian borders. He expressed no doubts that by expanding its presence near Ukraine Moscow is exerting its pressure upon Kyiv. At the same time, Ukraine’s allies are ready for military cooperation with the country, as well as for sanctioning Russia amid its aggressive policy, Kuleba added.
  • Hanna Maliar, deputy defense minister, assures Ukrainian Armed Forces are ready to defend the country amid the security situation along Ukrainian borders, which is being followed very closely. “The readiness is day-and-night and absolutely operational,” Maliar stressed.

15 November, key updates:

  • US officials are closely monitoring Russian military activity near the border with Ukraine, which has sparked concern about Moscow’s intentions after months of escalating tensions between the 2 countries, Foreign Policy reports.
  • The US informed its allies from the EU about the possibility of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine due to the recent migration crisis at the Poland-Belarus border and current uncertainty with regard to gas supplies to the EU from Russia, Ukrinform English reports.
  • Ukraine and its Western allies have stepped up diplomatic efforts to warn Russia against launching a new military attack on Ukraine by spelling out the consequences of doing so, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said, Reuters reports.
  • Secretary of State Antony Blinken told his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba in Washington on Wednesday that the U.S. commitment to Ukraine’s security and territorial integrity is “ironclad” and will not change. He said any Russian escalation along the border would be viewed with “grave concern”, AP News reports.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin accused the U.S. of supporting drone use in the Ukraine conflict zone and said its naval drills with NATO in the Black Sea risk further escalating tensions in the region, Bloomberg reports.

Russia was also increasing its military presence along Ukraine’s border in Spring 2021. Below you can read the regular spring updates.

11 May, key updates:

  • Ukrainian Defense Minister Andriy Taran says that although Russia is withdrawing its troops, there is still a possibility of a Russian invasion from the side of Belarus or military aggression carried out via Belarusian territory, UNIAN reports.

5 May, key updates of the past few days:

  • While meeting on the margins of G7 ministerial meeting, the EU HR/VP Josep Borrell and the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken discussed Russia’s aggressive behavior. The issue of Russia’s build-up along Ukrainian borders and in the illegally annexed Crimea was also in the spotlight of the meeting.
  • The USA is ready to respond to “unreasonable and aggressive” actions by Russia, the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said. He also argued that Washington is watching very closely Moscow’s actions and the course it has embarked on.
  • The US Secretary of State Antony Blinken urges allies to force Russia to implement its international obligations. As he wrote in his Twitter, there is a need to work together to “call out Russia’s behavior, hold Russia accountable for its actions, and press Moscow to adhere to its international commitments and obligations.”

29 April, 18:01 - There is no threat of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but such a threat still exists, Lieutenant General Serhii Naiiev said.

29 April, 15:06 - Antony Blinken, the US Secretary of State, is set to visit Ukraine next week. As Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister, explained, during the meeting, the US support for Ukraine’s reforms, as well as security, economy and energy issues will be discussed.

29 April, 13:20 - According to Antony Blinken, the US Secretary of State, Russia has only partially withdrawn its troops from Ukrainian border. “There are more Russian forces along Ukrainian border than it has ever been after 2014 when Russia really invaded Ukraine,” Blinken stressed.

29 April, 10:30 - In its yesterdays’ resolution, the European Parliament called to made it clear for Russia what consequences would Moscow face if it invaded Ukraine amid its military build-up along country’s borders. If this becomes a reality, MEPs urges to urgently exclude Russia from SWIFT payment system, stop all oil and gas imports from Russia, freeze assets of and impose entry ban on Russia’s financial tycoons linked to the authorities.

28 April, key updates:

  • Yesterday, the occupiers violated the ceasefire in Donbas 11 times, one Ukrainian soldier has been injured, UNIAN informs.
  • Head of the State Border Service of Ukraine Serhiy Deyneko told that Russia has begun a partial withdrawal of troops from the occupied Crimea, but the withdrawal of Russian troops from the eastern border of Ukraine in the Voronezh region is not observed.
  • President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky believes that the Vatican could be an optimal place for his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, UKINFORM reports.
  • President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky wants upgrade several clauses of the Minsk Agreements and involve new countries in Donbas talks, UNIAN informs.
  • German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas welcomed Russia's withdrawal of troops from the border of Ukraine and called for the removal of restrictions in the Black Sea, Deutsche Welle reports.
  • Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania has adopted a resolution condemning Russia's provocative actions near the border with Ukraine, UNIAN reports.
  • Ukrainian prosecutors are investigating the participation of about 260 foreign nationals from 32 countries in hostilities in Crimea and Donbas, UNIAN informs.
  • Ambassador of Germany to Ukraine Anka Feldhuzen believes that the military threat to Ukraine from Russia will remain at least until the military exercises "West-2021" planned for the autumn, despite the Kremlin's statements about the withdrawal of troops.

27 April, key updates:

  • French President Emmanuel Macron urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to “commit in good faith and in a sustainable way toward reducing tensions with Ukraine", - France 24 reported.
  • The US ship began its north bound straits transit into the Black Sea to work with NATO allies and partners,“to strengthen regional maritime security, combined readiness, and naval capability”, as part of their collaboration in the Aegean Sea.
  • Russia’s Black Sea fleet launched naval combat exercises on Tuesday as a U.S. coastguard vessel headed to the region at a time of heightened tension between Russia and the West,- Reuters reports.- Russia’s Black Sea fleet said on Tuesday its Moskva cruiser would hold live-fire drills with other ships and military helicopters. Read more here.
  • Over the past day, April 26, the armed formations of the Russian Federation violated the ceasefire in the Joint Forces Operation area in eastern Ukraine nine times, -Ukrinform reports. Meanwhile, the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM)recorded 382 ceasefire violations in Donetsk Oblast and nine in Luhansk Oblast between the evenings of 23 and 25 April.
  • Ukraine expels Russian consul in Odesa. A consul of the Russian Consulate General in Odesa has been declared persona non grata and must leave Ukraine by April 30, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry reported.
  • The US has provided the Ukrainian Armed Forces with almost 8 million dollars of new security assistance, the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine reported.
  • Direct negotiations with the leaders of the Russia-controlled separatists are a red line that Ukraine will not cross, said Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.

26 April, key updates:

  • Volodymyr Zelenskyy, President of Ukraine, instructed the head of his office, Andriy Yermak, to negotiate with Russian representatives about a possible meeting with President Vladimir Putin, UKRINFORM reports. "It seems to me that everything is going towards the fact that this meeting will take place," Zelenskyy added.
  • On April 25, there were 12 violations of the ceasefire in Donbas. Joint Forces Operations reports, fortunately, the Ukrainian army on this day didn't suffer military losses.
  • President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy offered to involve the United States, Great Britain and Canada into Normandy format, European Pravda reports referring to Zelenskyy’s recent interview for the Financial Times.
  • Mateusz Morawiecki, Prime Minister of Poland, convenes an emergency meeting of the Visegrad Group countries (Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary) due to Russia's aggressive actions. "The meeting will focus on Russian acts of sabotage in the Czech Republic, Russia's escalation of the situation in Ukraine and Belarus," First Deputy Foreign Minister of Poland Szymon Szynkowski vel Sęk informs on Twitter.

25 April, key updates:

  • On April 24, there were 9 violations of the ceasefire in Donbas, but, fortunately, without any losses of the Ukrainian military, Joint Forces Operation reports.
  • Ukraine asked Germany to supply defense weapons for the protection of its territories due to rising tensions on the border with Russia, Deutsche Welle informs. However, according to Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung (FAS), German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas opposes the provision of arms to Ukraine. Meanwhile, Ambassador of Ukraine to Germany Andrij Melnyk wrote on his page in Twitter that Norbert Röttgen, a member of the CDU Presidium, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the German Bundestag, supported the idea of providing Ukraine with weapons of defense.
  • Vice-Marshal of the Sejm of the Republic of Poland Malgorzata Gosewska after visiting Ukraine stated that Russia wouldn't dare to attack Ukraine in case of decisive reaction of the USA and countries of the Western Europe, UKRINFORM reports. She emphasized that if Russia sees weakness, it will move on.
  • Germany's Greens chancellor candidate Annalena Baerbock emphasized the necessity to increase pressure on Russia to ensure compliance with the Minsk agreements, Ukrinform writes. She also critisized the Nord Stream 2 project.
  • Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor believes that Russia will not attack Ukraine because it will cause a large number of sanctions.
  • Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby stated that it's too early to evaluate the statements of the Russian side on the completion of exercises and the withdrawal of troops from Ukraine. He also added that the USA is monitoring this process very carefully.
  • Meanwhile, the Administration of US President Joe Biden believes that sanctions against Russia are working, and they have led to a reduction in tensions between Ukraine and Russia.

24 April, 20:06 - Commenting on the announcement of the withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukrainian borders, Andriy Yermak, the head of Presidential Office, pointed at the tremendous support Ukraine is enjoying in this context. President Volodymyr Zelensky’s work and support by the Western partners have resulted in such a decision by Kremlin, Yermak stressed.

24 April, 17:25 - As from today, 24 April, Russia partially closes access for international vessels to three districts of the Black Sea near illegally annexed Crimea. These restrictions will be in place until 31 October. There is no explanation from Russia’s Defense Ministry on the motives of such a decision.

24 April, 13:50 - Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky will not go to Moscow to hold Donbas peace talks with Vladimir Putin, Leonid Kravchuk, the head of Ukrainian delegation in the Trilateral Contact Group, said while commenting Russia’s President invitation to his Ukraine’s counterpart. Only third, neutral, country can host the possible negotiations between two leaders, Kravchuk added.

24 April, 10:05 - Despite the withdrawal of Russian military forces announced by Moscow, the USA is not in a hurry to assess such a step as the one that may have an impact on the decrease of troops’ build-up along Ukrainian borders. According to John Kirby, a representative of the US Department of Defense, Washington keeps on watching closely the Russian troops’ movement, thus it is still too early to predict further developments.

23 April key updates:

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin has responded to his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky's offer to meet in Donbas, eastern Ukraine, as part of the peace talks, a piece of news from UNIAN reads. In his turn, Putin stated: "What do we want to discuss at this meeting? If we are talking about discussing the problems of Donbas, then, first of all, the Ukrainian leaders should meet with heads of the 'republics,' and only then discuss problems with representatives of third countries. If we are talking about bilateral relations, then we will receive the president of Ukraine in Moscow at any time convenient for him".
  • Russia has announced the beginning of bringing back its troops that have participated in drills in the occupied Crimea to their permanent locations, NV.UA reports.
  • Conflict Intelligence Team (CIT) has recently informed that Russia will keep its all military equipment in a dislocated field camp Pahonovo near Voronezh, regardles of withdrawal of personel from Ukrainian border, NV.UA writes.
  • According to Russia's Defense Minister, more than 20 ships of the Russian Black Sea Fleet have returned to their bases upon completion of maneuvers in Crimea, Interhax-Ukraine says.

22 April, 18:34 - Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky issued a statement in which he welcomed the decrease in the number of Russian troops along Ukraine's border that "proportionally contributed to the decerase in tensions." "Ukraine is on its guard but welcomes any steps aimed at the decrease of military presence and deescalation in Donbas. Ukraine wants peace. Thank you to our interntational partners for support," he wrote.

22 April, 15:05 - Russia's defense minister Sergei Shoigu announced the end of the "inspection" in the country's Southern and Western military districts, given that all the "goals set" had been achieved. Against this backdrop, Shoigu ordered that troops that had previously been amassed in the indicated regions return to their permanent locations.

22 April, 12:53 - The OSCE SMM has identified 12 Grad rocket launchers in the occupied part of Donbas, Radio Svoboda reports. Even though they are located beyond the line of armed forces' disengagement, their range is at least twice as big as their distance from the contact line envisaged by the rules of such disengagement. This means that they still can target Ukraine's territory.

22 April, 12:42 - According to the latest reports from the battlefield, another Ukrainian soldier was killed this morning following a recent shellfire.

22 April, 12:06 - Oleksiy Arestovych, speaker of Ukraine's Delegation to the Trilateral Contact Group, recently shared his forecast that escalation along Ukraine's eastern and southern borderst would cease after the next meeting of the TCG scheduled to take place on 28 April.

21 April, 19:47 - Volodymyr Zelensky signed the bill allowing to draft reservists without annoucement of mobilization into law.

21 April, 14:01 - Despite the numerous fears (for instance, that he would recognize "independence" of the so-called "DPR" and "LPR"), Vladimir Putin, Russia's President, did not specifically mention any Donbas-related issues during his annual adress to the country's parliament.

21 April, 12:00 - Key updates of the past few days:

  • On 20 April Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenksy published a video adress dedicated to the situation along the country's eastern border. Among other things, he stated that Ukraine did not seek war but was fully prepared to it. He also offered his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to meet "in any place in Donbas where the war is ongoing."
  • According to Ukraine's foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba, the number of Russian troops along Ukraine's eastern border is around 120 000 people. The estimates recently cited by Josep Borrell, EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, go even further, totalling at around 150 000.
  • The Wall Street Journal has recently come forward with a piece containing satellite imagery of Russia's military buildup in the occupied Crimean peninsula. According to the material, in the last three weeks Russia has relocated a significant number of combat aircraft there. As of now, the peninsula is packed with airborne troops, vehicle and armoured units, combat helicopters, reconnaissance UASs, electronic warfare systems and a field hospital.

UkraineWorld has recently produced a number of materials dedicated to the ongoing escalation along Ukraine's eastern and southern borders. They can serve as a good starting point to bring you up to speed with the pending developments before you proceed to our regular detailed updates.

You are welcome to check out our video summarizing developments of the past few weeks:

Another video dedicated to Russian propaganda against the backdrop of the escalation:

As well as an online discussion we recently held to analyze possible scenarios of developments:

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