Large-scale military exercises have begun in Crimea. According to TASS, more than 10,000 military personnel, 1,200 weapons and military equipment, as well as more than 40 warships take part in them.
Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu arrived in Crimea to check the readiness of naval and land groups for exercises as part of a snap combat readiness inspection, according to a press release of the Russian Defense Ministry.
High Representative of the European Union Josep Borrell said earlier that more than 100,000 Russian troops were deployed on the border with Ukraine and Crimea. He praised Ukraine for its "restraint" and called on Moscow to reduce tensions.
On April 16, the presidents of Ukraine, France and the German Chancellor said after a tripartite meeting that to achieve de-escalation in the Donbass, Russia should withdraw its troops from the border with Ukraine. The Kremlin insists that redeployment of the Russian military was in response to the escalation in eastern Ukraine.
Since the end of March, Russia has been increasing its military presence near Ukraine's borders amid the escalating conflict between the unrecognized Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics and Kyiv. The Russian Defense Ministry said that the movement of troops is part of the military exercises and it does not threaten anyone.
On March 26, Kyiv reported the death of four Ukrainian servicemen in the Donbas. The Ukrainian military blamed the “armed formations of the Russian Federation” for the shelling the Ukrainian positions.
On April 20, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky invited Russian President Vladimir Putin to meet in Donbas.
"There was a proposal to meet on the line of demarcation in order to see and understand the situation as accurately as possible. What do I see? I go there every month. Mr. Putin, I am ready to go even further and invite you to meet anywhere in the Ukrainian Donbas, where there is a war," said Zelensky in a video message.
The redeployment of the Russian military was one of the topics of the CIA chief's speech at the hearing of the special intelligence committee of the U.S. Senate.