Ukrainian Defense Minister Stepan Poltorak said on Thursday Russia has been keeping its frontline forces in the east where Kiev army and pro-Russian separatists could resume conflicts soon despite the fragile ceasefire.
Poltorak told reporters in a joint news conference with his Baltic counterparts in Lithuania on Thursday that the separatists have still been supported by Russia and it was difficult to predict their offensive moves against the Kiev forces.
"A large number of tanks and artillery systems have been moved into the territory, and in the territory of Luhansk and Donetsk there are units of Russian armed forces," Poltorak said. "That is why we see a risk fighting will restart." he added.
Ukraine’s separatist war calmed down when a ceasefire brokered by the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) was sealed in the Belarussian capital Minsk, but the fragile peace was sporadically violated by both Kiev forces and the pro-russian separatists.
The Kiev government has vowed to protect its territorial integrity as Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has been reiterating several times that they would take back the breakaway regions since the conflict erupted.
Poroshenko said this month that his country’s membership in the Euro-Atlantic Alliance must be incorporated to the national security document during a National Security and Defence Council meeting in Kiev.
Under Russia’s geopolitical reserves and military pressure, Ukraine’s former deposed president Viktor Yanukovych had adopted a non-aligned status in 2010, which limited Kiev to joining possible security alliances against Moscow.
But the country abandoned its non-aligned status by turning its face to the NATO at the end of last year when the separatist war escalated between Kiev and the breakaway regions in the east.
Ukrainian leadership still suspects that whether Moscow abides by the agreed armistice in Minsk since violations have recently increased again in the Donbass region.
Russia denies such allegations and accusations claimed by Kiev and says that its soldiers have only been patrolling the porous borders with the eastern Ukraine.
Authorities in Ukraine have shown two Russian soldiers who were captured during a battle with pro-Russian separatist rebels in the country’s east on Sunday.
The capture of the soldiers comes just days after the release of a report published by the Russian opposition claiming at least 220 Russian soldiers were killed in the war in eastern Ukraine in the past year.
Last week, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg urged Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to pull back all troops and heavy artilleries from Ukraine as well as to stop supporting the pro-Russian separatists in the region.
Stoltenberg said that he spoke with Lavrov after a meeting in Brussels in Belgium and mentioned that he was concerned over military actions carried out by Russia.
The NATO chief on Wednesday paid attention to Russia’s increasing military presence towards Europe and stated that Moscow’s nuclear rhetoric considering the European security was problematic in terms of peace and stability.
"Russia's recent use of nuclear rhetoric, exercises and operations are deeply troubling," Stoltenberg told an audience at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) think tank in Washington.
Ukrainian President Poroshenko announced this month that the separatist war in the east had caused the death of 7,000 people so far while the UN has released the death toll in Ukraine’s one year of conflict as being 6,100 people.
Since Russia annexed Crimea last year as well as allegedly supported separatists in Donetsk and Luhansk, Eastern European countries have been worrying over Russia’s increasing military influence as they have a remarkable amount of Russian-speaking minorities.
Russian incursions mostly into the Baltic airspace sparked the reaction of Eastern European countries whereas Sweden and Finland have been complaining from Russian assaults through submarines in their territorial waters.