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Russia-Ukraine conflict: How did it start, where will it lead?

DW, 16 Apr 2021
French President Emmanuel Macron is hosting his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Paris for talks on escalating tensions with Russia. They'll be joined on a video call by German chancellor Angela Merkel.
There's been growing alarm in recent weeks over Russia's military buildup along its border with Ukraine. Moscow has also moved warships to the Black Sea to Ukraine's south. And there's been a spike in clashes in Ukraine's Donbas region between the army and pro-Russian separatists.
The talks in Paris are a show of support for Kyiv, which after Russia's annexation of Crimea, now says it fears another invasion.
Tensions on Europe's far Eastern frontier broke open in March and April 2014. Following Russia's seizure of the Crimean Peninsula, pro-Russian separatists proclaimed a new republic in Ukraine's eastern Donbass region, near the Russian border. The government launched a military operation. That began a grinding conflict that's claimed at least 14-thousand lives so far.
Month by month in 2014, the atrocities mounted. In May, clashes in the seaside city of Odessa left dozens of separatists dead. A months-long battle for Donetsk airport saw the facility reduced to rubble.
Then in July pro-Russian forces shot down a Malaysian airliner over the conflict zone, killing all 298 people on board. An international investigation was hampered by evidence tampering, but concluded that a Russian-made anti-aircraft module had launched the fatal strike.
In September NATO certified that Russian troops were coming over the border to help the separatist cause.
Things took a turn in early 2015 - in February, Germany and France brokered a deal in Belarus, resulting in a shaky ceasefire. Though it was violated often, the cease-fire kept the conflict at a simmer for the following two years.
In September 2019, a prisoner swap between Russia and Ukraine gave hope that further de-escalation was possible.
But though the conflict disappeared from the headlines, it never really went away. In early 2021, clashes erupted again in the Donbass - and Russia again massed its own troops and hardware at the border. More trouble - in a region that hasn't known peace in years.
DW spoke with Ukraine Ambassador to the UK Vadym Prystaiko, who is Ukraine's former deputy prime minister and former foreign minister.


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