Apr. 7, 2021
Photo Credit: Wikipedia/ArmyInform
The Operational Command East with the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) provocatively announced Saturday that it will hold joint military exercises known as “Exercise Cossack Mace” with NATO forces later this year. The statement comes as violence continues to escalate between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed separatists in the eastern Donbass region of the country.
While joint Ukrainian-NATO drills are often announced with clarifying statements that they are purely “defensive” operations, the AFU’s statement differed in that it made clear that it would simulate an offensive attack against not only separatist-controlled Donbass but Russian forces as well.
“In particular, defensive actions will be worked out, followed by an offensive in order to restore the state border and territorial integrity of a state that has been subjected to aggression by one of the hostile neighboring countries,” the statement said, clearly referring to Russia.
Saturday’s statement was followed up on Sunday with the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine ominously posting a video to its Facebook page, celebrating the 72nd anniversary of NATO, along with the hashtag #WeAreNATO.
For over six years, Ukraine has been mired in an ongoing civil war in eastern Ukraine between government forces and separatists that has claimed the lives of approximately 14,000, displaced 1.4 million and left 3.5 million in need of humanitarian assistance. For much of the six years, the fighting has remained at a relatively low level of persistent shelling and shootings back and forth, while avoiding a full-out war. The Ukrainian government’s recent statements and actions show that is now planning for such a scenario, and is expecting NATO backing.