Is Russia about to launch a fresh offensive in eastern Ukraine?

US expresses concern as Russia 'sends ballistic missiles' to Ukraine border

Merkel told Russian President Vladimir Putin on during a phone call Thursday that Russia must reverse the buildup of troops in the area of eastern Ukraine to help achieve "a de-escalation of the situation", according to her spokeswoman, Ulrike Demmer. Instead of planning an invasion, Putin could be moving military hardware to the Ukranian border to intimidate Zelensky and thwart his attempt to join North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

"And if you ask opinions of several million people in the self-proclaimed republics, you will understand that such a membership in North Atlantic Treaty Organisation is deeply unacceptable for these people", said Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

Ukraine is thought of as a weak state compared to Russia's enormous military machine, considered the world's second most powerful army.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have discussed growing hostilities in eastern Ukraine and bilateral military cooperation, the president's press service said Tuesday.

"Russia now has more troops than at any time since 2014", Psaki added, saying that five Ukrainian soldiers have been killed in the past week.

Tensions have soared in eastern Ukraine in recent weeks after Vladimir Putin dispatched tanks, helicopters and thousands of troops to the Ukrainian border.

Images released by Zelensky's office showed the 43-year-old leader in the trenches clad in a helmet and bulletproof vest, handing out awards to Ukrainian soldiers and shaking their hands.

Ukraine last week accused Russian Federation of massing thousands of military personnel on its northern and eastern borders as well as on the Crimean peninsula. "But NATO is only about membership".

An Ukrainian serviceman digs the ground of a trench as he stands at his post on the frontline on April 8
An Ukrainian serviceman digs the ground of a trench as he stands at his post on the frontline on April 8 Credit AFP

Referring in his reply to Srebrenica, where about 8,000 Muslim men and boys were killed by Bosnian Serb forces during Bosnia's 1992-1995 war, he said: 'It all depends on the scale of the fire.

"If, as our president says, there is a Srebrenica there, we shall probably have to come to their defence", Mr Kozak said.

Mr Kozak suggested the rebels could hold their own for now against Ukrainian forces as they consisted of "battle-hardened units".

The ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine began in April 2014.

This sparked a major rift with Western nations, prompting the European Union and the U.S. to impose sanctions on Russian Federation.

Ukraine and western countries say Donbass separatists have been armed, led, funded and aided by Russians, including active Russian troops. Both sides have since accused each other of violating it.

Zelensky, who has urged North Atlantic Treaty Organisation to speed up his country's membership into the alliance to support Ukraine, said he had visited positions where "the largest number of violations" of a ceasefire had been recorded, the presidency said in a statement.

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