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Russian-backed separatists took control of Crimea and parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of eastern Ukraine (the Donbas) in 2014.

The 2014 and 2015 Minsk agreements remain the basis for the negotiation of a political solution to the conflict. In July 2020 additional measures were agreed by the Minsk Trilateral Contact Group, intended to strengthen, and ensure compliance with, the ceasefire.

However, fighting between Russian supported separatists and Ukrainian government forces has continued in the Donbas, despite rarely being in the headlines. Tensions have been growing in the last few months and ceasefire violations are becoming increasingly commonplace. The Minsk agreements remain largely unimplemented by both sides. 

Since March 2021 Russia has been building up significant military forces in Crimea and along the borders of Eastern Ukraine, prompting fears of further military action and unrest in the region.

On 22 April 2021 the Kremlin announced, however, that those additional troops, which it said had been deployed on exercise, would be withdrawn by 1 May 2021.

Russia’s justification for the build-up has been questioned and it remains to be seen whether Russia will fully implement its commitment to withdrawal.

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