On April 23, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced the withdrawal of troops from the Southern and Western military districts to permanent stations due to the completion of military exercises. It is necessary to understand whether the purpose of such large-scale maneuvers was really just training, and what can Ukraine and the international community expect from the Kremlin in a future? The April crisis caused by the large-scale deployment of Russian troops around Ukraine actually divided the European Union into two camps. Western European states such as France and the Federal Republic of Germany, which still hope to avoid direct conflict with the Russian Federation and believe in the possibility of returning to a constructive dialogue with Moscow, tried to act as mediators between Ukraine and Russia, avoiding harsh criticism towards the Kremlin in the beginning and blaming both Russia, which was sending its troops to the border, and Ukraine, which was preparing for defense.
While France and Germany were figuring out who was to blame for the escalation of the conflict in Donbas and the deployment of Russian troops near the borders of Ukraine, the Eastern part of Europe feeling a real threat of a possible armed attack by the Russian Federation and has no illusions about the real intentions of the Kremlin, in particular, these are the Baltic countries, Poland, Georgia, Romania, along with the Czech Republic, Bulgaria and Slovakia, together with the Anglo-Saxon states, strongly condemned the aggressive activities of Moscow. Some of these states immediately called on the EU member states to take practical steps towards the introduction of new, tougher sanctions against the Russian Federation in order to change its aggressive behavior.
In fact, against the background of differences between European states over Russia, the opposite process took place in the form of joint resistance of Central and Eastern European countries, which declared a diplomatic war on Russia and expelled a large number of Russian diplomats. Particular attention was drawn to Bulgaria and the Czech Republic, which have traditionally maintained partnership with Russia. In mid-April, the Czech leadership learned of the involvement of the Russian special service officers of the GRU in the explosion of ammunition depots in the Vrbetice complex in 2014. It is quite possible that the same people who committed a terrorist attack in Salisbury were involved in the explosion, as it became known, Petrov and Bashirov were in the Czech town of Vrbetice on October 15, 2014. And the next day, an ammunition depot near the city blew up. After receiving the information, the Czech government resorted to adequate measures in the form of canceling the visit of Vice Prime Minister Gamacek to Moscow, expelling 18 Russian diplomats and refusing to allow the Russian Federation to participate in the tender to build a nuclear power plant in the Czech Republic. The very next day it became known that in response to the expulsion of 18 Russian diplomats, the Russian Federation was expelling 20 Czech, almost the entire staff of the Czech Embassy in the Russian Federation. After which the Czech Republic expelled 70 more Russian diplomats. According to Czech media reports, the explosion was likely organized to disrupt the supply of weapons, including to Ukraine. Bulgaria, in turn, suspects 3 Russian citizens, probably connected with the GRU, in an attempt to poison the arms dealer Emilian Gebrev and, again, in organizing explosions at military depots in Bulgaria.
The United Kingdom also played a role in these events. According to the head of intelligence service Mi-6, Great Britain warned Russian President Vladimir Putin about the consequences of the invasion of Russian troops into Ukraine. Moore said Britain and the United States had warned Russia before the Kremlin ordered the withdrawal of troops and made it clear to Putin that the cost of invading Ukraine would be high. In addition, it became known that in May, the United Kingdom will send 2 destroyers to the Black Sea in support of Ukraine.
Separately, the importance of the readiness of the Armed Forces of Ukraine to conduct defensive operations should be noted, which probably also influenced Putin's decision not to launch a full-scale offensive. In particular, large-scale military exercises were launched in Ukraine in the south of the country and near the border of Kharkiv region. Territorial defense forces conducted exercises in the cities. Inside the country, panic was avoided, and the President, actively meeting with foreign leaders and the military in places of deployment, in particular, in the Kherson region, declared the state's readiness to repel the aggressor. Therefore, we can conclude that inside Ukraine there is an unfavorable domestic political situation for Putin’s plans, which has narrowed the range of possible actions for the Russian leadership. Since Russia's information influence inside Ukraine has diminished, the current ability to use hybrid elements of warfare against Ukraine does not allow the Kremlin to achieve its goals by non-military means.
In parallel with the communications of the heads of NATO member states regarding the Russian build-up near Ukraine, the transfer of forces of the North Atlantic Alliance for the military exercises Defender Europe 2021 in Eastern Europe began. In particular, joint maneuvers were announced on the territory of Estonia, Bulgaria and Romania. Although the exercises only involve about 28,000 people, it seems that this time Putin realized that he would not get away with the invasion of Ukraine as he did in 2014, since a number of European states now have come together and began to perceive Russia as a threat. Vladimir Putin could have launched a large-scale offensive, as Biden was indecisive, but on the other hand he made it clear to the Russian leader that this time the sanctions would be much tougher. Therefore, Putin has now decided to postpone a full-scale offensive on Ukraine, adjust his strategy and restructure Russian economy to reduce risks. We should not forget that not all Russian troops have been withdrawn yet, so the danger for Ukraine remains.
Now Putin will try to come to an agreement with the American leader on dividing of spheres of influence and the West's refusal to interfere in the zone of special interests of the Russian Federation, the so-called «Near Abroad». Russia has shown that it does not yet have enough resources to achieve its foreign policy goals simultaneously - the Anschluss of Belarus and the destruction of the Ukrainian state within its modern borders with the subsequent implementation of the «Novorossiya project», so will try to act gradually. Under such conditions, Ukrainian diplomacy should focus on maintaining international support and reaching agreements with partner states on the purchase of defensive weapons. A strong army is Ukraine's only guarantee of maintaining its own independence.