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The Budapest Memorandum, signed on 05 December 1994 by Ukraine, the U.S., Russia, and Britain, resulted in Ukraine renouncing its status as the world’s third largest nuclear power. In return, the other signatories provided “security assurances” of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, independence, sovereignty and freedom from interference. The Budapest memorandum committed Washington, Moscow and London, among other things, to “respect the independence and sovereignty and existing borders of Ukraine” and to “refrain from the threat or use of force” against that country. The United Kingdom and United States continue to support Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Russo-Ukraine War - 2021 - December

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on 01 December 2021 called for direct negotiations with Russia to end an eight-year war with pro-Russian separatists in his country’s east. “We must tell the truth that we will not be able to end the war without direct talks with Russia,” Zelensky said during an annual address to lawmakers. “Let’s be honest, the war in Donbass has been going on for eight years. Eight years since Russia annexed Crimea,” Zelensky said. “We must talk, knowing that we have a strong and powerful army,” he added. He noted that the Ukrainian army is the best in the world and is able to protect the Ukrainian people.

On 01 December 2021, at a ceremony for presenting foreign ambassadors’ letters of credence, Vladimir Putin stated : "... the threat on our western border is really growing, and we have mentioned it many times. It is enough to see how close NATO military infrastructure has moved to Russia’s borders... we will insist on the elaboration of concrete agreements that would rule out any further eastward expansion of NATO and the deployment of weapons systems posing a threat to us in close proximity to Russia’s territory. We suggest that substantive talks on this topic should be started. I would like to note in particular that we need precisely legal, juridical guarantees, because our Western colleagues have failed to deliver on verbal commitments they made. Specifically, everyone is aware of the assurances they gave verbally that NATO would not expand to the east. But they did absolutely the opposite in reality. In effect, Russia’s legitimate security concerns were ignored and they continue to be ignored in the same manner even now."

Putin was referring to verbal assurances made to Gorbachev during talks on the reunification of Germany, where European leaders promised him that NATO would not expand eastward. However, nothing was put in writing and NATO later expanded eastward, something that Putin has been complaining about ever since he brought it up during a famous speech at the Munich Security Conference in 2007. The US and the UK were currently assisting Kiev in the construction of new military bases on the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, pledging to send more military "advisers" and special forces to the East European state.

Tension incrased 01 December 2021 when Russian Foreign Ministry official Maria Zakharova announced that Kyiv had sent 125,000 servicemen to the Donbas. “The Armed Forces of Ukraine are building up their military strength, pulling together heavy equipment and personnel. According to some reports, the number of Ukrainian troops in the conflict zone has already reached 125,000 people. This, if anyone does not know, is half of the entire composition of the Armed Forces of Ukraine,” Zakharova said at a briefing. She repeated the Kremlin line that Kyiv “de facto does not want to peacefully solve the problem of Donbas,” and has caused Russia “serious concern.”

Zakharova also condemned Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky for submitting a bill to the national parliament that would allow units from foreign armed forces to enter the country as part of multinational exercises in 2022. According to her, such a move directly contradicts the Minsk agreement, signed in 2014 in a bid to end the fighting between Kiev’s forces and troops loyal to two self-declared breakaway republics.

"We are confident that if we join efforts, if we act in a coordinated fashion, we will be able to deter President [Vladimir] Putin and to demotivate him from choosing the worst-case scenario, which is a military operation," Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told reporters on 01 December as he arrived for talks with his NATO counterparts in the Latvian capital, Riga. Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod said that any military operation that would violate the sovereignty of Ukraine would be met with "severe consequences," and that his country was ready to engage with "heavy" sanctions.

"We're deeply concerned by evidence that Russia has made plans for significant aggressive moves against Ukraine. Plans include efforts to destabilize Ukraine from within, as well as large scale military operations," U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told a news conference in Riga. "We don't know whether President [Vladimir] Putin has made the decision to invade. We do know that he is putting in place the capacity to do so in short order should he so decide," Blinken said. "We made it clear to the Kremlin that we will respond resolutely, including with a range of high impact economic measures that we've refrained from using in the past."

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said 02 December 2021 at a meeting of the 28th OSCE Ministerial Council : The architecture of strategic stability is rapidly collapsing, NATO is refusing to constructively consider our proposals to de-escalate tensions and prevent dangerous incidents. On the contrary, the military infrastructure of the alliance is being brought closer to the Russian borders. A nightmare scenario of a military confrontation is returning.... In a dialogue with the United States and its allies, we will insist on the development of agreements that would exclude any further NATO advances to the east and the deployment of weapons systems that threaten us in close proximity to Russian territory. In the near future, we will submit appropriate proposals, we look forward to their serious consideration in essence, without reservation...."

Hostilities in Ukraine are still highly probable and Kiev’s aggressive rhetoric suggests a possible military scenario in Donbass, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on 02 December 2021. "Military operations in Ukraine are still highly probable and this is a cause for special concern, a concern for us," the Russian presidential spokesman emphasized. "As a whole, we see sufficient, perhaps, even aggressive rhetoric, as we can put it, used by the Ukrainian authorities. We see stepped-up provocative actions along the lines of engagement," Peskov noted.

Formal NATO provisions were reiterated by Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the end of the foreign ministers’ meeting in Riga, Latvia: “Ministers made clear that we stand by our decisions.” That was code for three NATO positions: 1) No outside country can influence NATO decisions (as on enlargement); 2) any country in the OSCE has the right to choose its own alliance; and 3) Ukraine and Georgia “will join NATO.”

A declassified assessment disclosed by the Biden administration, in an effort to shore up opposition inside Russia to Mr. Putin’s plans, suggested that by January he may have as many as 175,000 troops on the border — up from roughly 100,000.

Maxim Samorukov, Carnegie Moscow Center, argued that "Putin wants Biden to finally face up to an unpleasant dilemma. The message is simple: Washington needs to brace itself for its partner Ukraine to be soundly defeated militarily in what would be an especially humiliating re-run of recent events in Afghanistan. Or it can back down and reach a compromise with Moscow over Ukraine. The Kremlin seems to be under no illusions that the first option would inflict huge costs on Russia’s economy and international standing. But it wants to convince the United States that it is prepared to bear those costs because of the importance of Ukraine for Russian national interests.... , Putin has said that he wants a deal to prevent Ukraine from ever joining NATO. He also wants a Western promise never to deploy NATO military infrastructure in Ukraine. Putin cited U.S. MK-41 missile launchers now in Romania to illustrate what he’s worried about: “I will repeat once again that the issue concerns the possible deployment in the territory of Ukraine of strike systems with the flight time of 7–10 minutes to Moscow, or 5 minutes in the case of hypersonic systems. Just imagine that.”"

U S intelligence agencies haven’t concluded that Russian President Vladimir Putin will invade Ukraine, but he has assembled military forces that “could act in a very sweeping way” and may see an opportunity to move this winter, CIA Director William Burns said 06 December 2021 at The Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council Summit. “I would never underestimate President Putin’s risk appetite on Ukraine”. One of the key participants in the Zapad-21 exercise was the headquarters the 41st Combined Arms Army (CAA), stationed in Novosibirsk, some 3,000 kilometers from Ukraine. After the exercise concluded in September 2021, the unit did not return to its home station but instead linked up with other Russian forces near the Ukrainian border.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and US leader Joe Biden held a virtual summit 07 December 2021, with Moscow's troop build-up on Ukraine's borders dominating the talks.The two presidents spoke for roughly two hours. Biden was to warn Putin against invading Ukraine, threatening painful sanctions and more US military support for Eastern Europe if the Russian leader triggers a military conflict. The Kremlin released a short video clip in which the two leaders exchanged friendly greetings, though it did little to disguise tensions between Washington and Moscow. Ahead of the talk, US officials said that Washington was prepared to impose its toughest economic sanctions yet on Moscow if necessary, targeting the biggest banks in Russia and making it nearly impossible for them to convert rubles to dollars. Russia had demanded "legal guarantees" that the alliance will not grant Ukraine's request to become a member. NATO principles state any country should be able to join.

The Kremlin said Putin told Biden that NATO was bolstering its military potential near Russia's borders and "making dangerous attempts to conquer Ukrainian territory.” The Kremlin said "Therefore, Russia is seriously interested in obtaining reliable, legally fixed guarantees that rule out eastward NATO expansion and the deployment of offensive strike weapons systems in states adjacent to Russia".

Biden, meanwhile, made no “commitments or concessions” on Putin's demands, the White House said. "President Biden voiced the deep concerns of the United States and our European allies about Russia’s escalation of forces surrounding Ukraine and made clear that the U.S. and our allies would respond with strong economic and other measures in the event of military escalation," the White House said. "President Biden reiterated his support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and called for de-escalation and a return to diplomacy," it added. White House national-security adviser Jake Sullivan said that if Russia wants its gas to flow through Nord Stream 2, “it should not invade Ukraine.”

The US media outlet's sources also repeated the 6 December report by CNN, that Russia's access to the SWIFT system, used by banks for international and inter-bank wires, might be on the table. CNN's sources called it a "nuclear option". Bloomberg, in turn, said that Washington will likely avoid resorting to it, due to the measure potentially causing too much pain for Russian citizens.

Donald Trump claimed Russia’s Vladimir Putin is apparently “not worried” about the Joe Biden administration, criticizing his successor after Biden sat down for an online meeting with the Russian leader. “Vladimir Putin looks at our pathetic surrender in Afghanistan, leaving behind dead Soldiers, American citizens, and $85 billion worth of Military equipment. He then looks at Biden. He is not worried!” Trump said in a statement hours after Biden and Putin met virtually to discuss a range of issues.

US Senator Roger Wicker, R-MS, the number two Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, told Fox News 07 December 2021: "Military action could mean that we stand off with our ships in the Black Sea, and we rain destruction on Russian military capability. It could mean that. It could mean that we participate, and I would not rule that out, I would not rule out American troops on the ground. We don’t rule out first use nuclear action.… We don't think it'll happen, but there are certain things in negotiation, if you're going to be tough, you don't take off the table."

Putting US troops on the ground in Ukraine to deter a potential Russian invasion is "not on the table", President Joe Biden has said on 08 December 2021, adding he will announce a meeting with Russia and other NATO countries in a few days. Speaking to reporters as he left the White House, Biden said the US had a moral and legal obligation to defend NATO allies if they are attacked, but that obligation did not extend to Ukraine. "That is not on the table," Biden said when asked if US troops would be used to stop a Russian invasion of Ukraine. "It would depend upon what the rest of the NATO countries were willing to do as well," Biden said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on 09 December 2021 said that the conflict in eastern Ukraine between Kiev's army and pro-Russian separatists "looks like genocide", at a time of heightened tensions with the West. "I have to say that Russophobia is a first step towards genocide," the Russian leader said. "You and I know what is happening in Donbass," referring to the conflict zone in the east of the country, adding that: "It certainly looks like genocide." Putin had previously made similar comparisons about the war in eastern Ukraine including in 2015 and 2019.

In a fresh escalation in war of words towards Ukraine, Russia on 09 December 2021 said that Ukraine was moving heavy artillery towards front line where pro-Russian separatists are fighting with Ukrainian forces. Russia also accused Ukraine of failing to engage in peace process. The remarks came from Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova. The words gave no sign that Moscow is willing to tone down its bitter criticism of Ukraine despite a two-hour call this week between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his US counterpart Joe Biden. Zakharova, said: "With the support of NATO countries pumping the country with weapons, Kyiv is building up its contingent on the line of contact in Donbass."

New satellite images captured by a private US company show that Russia continued to build up its forces in annexed Crimea and near Ukraine in recent weeks. The images by Maxar Technologies released on 23 December 2021 showed a base in Crimea packed with hundreds of armoured vehicles and tanks as of December 13. A satellite image of the same base in October showed the base was half empty. "Over the past month, our high-resolution satellite imagery has observed a number of new Russian deployments in Crimea as well as in several training areas in western Russia along the periphery of the Ukraine border," Maxar said in a statement.

Maxar said a new brigade-level unit, comprised of several hundred armored vehicles that include BMP-series infantry fighting vehicles and air defence equipment, arrived at the Russian garrison. It cited increased activity at three sites in Crimea and at five sites in western Russia.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Moscow was acting to defend its own security. "Russia is moving its own troops around on its own territory against the backdrop of highly unfriendly actions by our opponents in NATO, the United States and various European countries who are carrying out highly unambiguous manoeuvres near our borders," said Peskov. "This forces us to take certain measures to guarantee our own security."

Other Maxar images showed a build-up at the Soloti staging ground in Russia close to the Ukrainian border, with photos shot at the start of December showing a larger concentration of military hardware than in September. Other pictures showed continuing build-ups at Yelnya, a Russian town around 260 kilometers (160 miles) north of the Ukrainian border, and at the Pogonovo training ground near the southern Russian city of Voronezh.

In its conclusions of 16 December 2021, the European Council stressed the urgent need for Russia to de-escalate tensions caused by the military build-up along its border with Ukraine and aggressive rhetoric. It reiterated its full support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. While encouraging diplomatic efforts and supporting the Normandy format in achieving the full implementation of the Minsk Agreements, the European Council stated that any further military aggression against Ukraine would have massive consequences and severe cost in response, including restrictive measures coordinated with partners.

The OSCE SMM observers recorded on 24 December 2021 the deployment of 6 units of military equipment of the Russian armed forces in the temporarily occupied territory, which was deployed in violation of the Minsk agreements. In the area of action of the so-called 1st Army Corps of the RF Armed Forces, in the OLEKSANDRIVSKE area, 4 tanks were found located outside the designated places for storing weapons. In the area of action of the 2nd Army Corps of the RF Armed Forces, in the area of BOHDANIVKA, 2 BBMs of the Russian armed forces, located in the security zone, were found. Recorded violations by the RF RF indicate that they have created the preconditions for further escalation of tension on the line of contact. And also about attempts to hide their activities from international observers.

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Page last modified: 02-06-2022 17:29:33 ZULU