This week, witnesses have been capturing dozens of videos of Russian military vehicles moving through Russian-occupied Crimea and Ukraine. Convoys of military vehicles have been seen on roadways, while trainloads of tanks and other armored vehicles have also been spotted, along with Russian military helicopters flying overhead.
On Wednesday, one Twitter user tweeted, “Russian forces are deploying massive amounts of military hardware into #Crimea. One of the largest deployments I’ve seen in recent memory” with two videos of Russian armored vehicles being transported by train.
Another Twitter user tweeted video purporting to show dozens of Russian military vehicles lined up along a roadway in the Russian border town of Morozovsk.
They tweeted, “JUST IN – Russian military convoy at Morozovsk, Rostov advances towards the border with Ukraine.”
The mass movement of Russian military equipment comes days after the U.S. Europe Command (EUCOM) reportedly raised its threat levels in Europe to a “potential imminent crisis,” the highest potential watch level.
Russia recently deployed thousands of additional troops to the southwest region bordering Ukraine and the Black Sea. The Russian troop deployment was reportedly part of a military training exercise in the region, but nearly 4,000 Russian troops have remained in the area even after the training exercise ended on March 23.
Ukraine’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba said on Thursday, “Russia’s current escalation is systemic, largest in recent years. Russia’s actions have brought the situation to a dead end. The only way out is diplomacy.”
Kuleba urged Russia to stop its military escalation and return to diplomatic talks immediately, as well as re-committing to a ceasefire.
On Thursday, another Twitter SwankyStas shared video of several Russian vehicles towing artillery pieces, followed by a video of at least a dozen Russian military helicopters flying overhead. The user, tweeting in Russian, said the movements are presumed to be a redeployment of military equipment used by Russia’s Southern Military District, “presumably as part of a control check.”
The Russian troop movements coincide with new fighting between Russia and Ukraine in recent days. The two countries have been fighting in a low-intensity conflict with occasional spikes in violence since 2014 when Russia invaded and annexed Crimea from Ukrainian control.
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in an interview with Channel One that Ukraine should not be “pushed from the outside” to escalate the conflict in the Donbas region, adding “Those who will try to start a new war in Donbas will destroy Ukraine,” Deutsche Welle reported.
Russia also began drafting citizens to its military, a move that the European Union blasted on Thursday.
“Today, the Russian Federation has launched yet another conscription campaign in the illegally-annexed Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol to draft residents of the peninsula in the Russian Federation Armed Forces,” the EU statement said.
“This is another violation of international humanitarian law. The Russian Federation is bound by international law, and obliged to ensure the protection of human rights on the peninsula,” the statement continued.
The Ukrainian military was also seen mobilizing some of its military vehicles near its border with Russia.
SwankyStas tweeted, “March 2021. Poltava. It should not be forgotten that the Ukrainian armed formations are also deploying military equipment.”
The National correspondent Joyce Karam also tweeted, “Wow. Military build up ongoing in full force on #Russia – #Ukraine border. Video of Ukrainian tanks reportedly rolling today into the Luhansk & Donetsk region.”
On Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke by phone with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, and Blinken “affirmed the United States’ unwavering support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of Russia’s ongoing aggression.”
According to the office of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Roman Mashovets, the deputy chief of the Office of the President of Ukraine, also met with Alexander Vinnikov, the main NATO representative to Ukraine on Thursday. The two discussed Russia’s military buildup and possible means of joint response Ukraine-NATO response. While Ukraine is not a member of NATO, the country has applied for NATO membership and is a member of NATO’s Partnership Interoperability Initiative, granting the country enhanced opportunities for partnerships with the alliance.