Russia-Ukraine Ceasefire Violations Soar 400% as Joe Biden Warns Invasion Is Coming

Ceasefire violations along the front line between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed separatists have increased by almost 400 percent since this time last year, according to a Newsweek analysis of the latest data from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

The OSCE has recorded a significant uptick in violations—i.e. explosions attributable to fire from artillery, mortars and tanks from all combatants on either side of the frozen front line—through 2021.

The year ended with some 100,000 Russian troops massed along Ukraine's borders and U.S. President Joe Biden warning that a fresh invasion may be imminent.

OSCE figures sent to Newsweek showed around 15,800 ceasefire violations by all combatants in November 2021; the highest number of violations of any month that year and more than 19 times the 818 violations recorded in November 2020.

December 2021 saw some 11,200 ceasefire violations, OSCE said, almost five times as many as the 2,398 recorded in December 2020.

So far in January 2022, the OSCE has recorded around 3,200 violations; a 12 percent increase on the 2,845 violations recorded in all of January 2021. With eleven days of the month left, this number is sure to increase.

Taken together, the number of violations from November 2021 to January 20, 2022 is 30,200. This represents a 398 percent increase on the 6,061 violations recorded from November 2020 to the end of January 2021.

The OSCE does not attribute ceasefire violations to the various combatants operating in the area.

Tensions remain high along the demarcation line separating Ukrainian forces from separatists in the eastern Donbas region. Regular and special Russian forces have previously also deployed to separatist-controlled territory, where Kremlin-aligned fighters have been at war with the government in Kyiv since 2014.

Violations have continued despite a fresh ceasefire announced by the OSCE at the end of December. Special representative of the OSCE chairperson-in-office in Ukraine, Mikko Kinnunen, said in a statement last month that "participants expressed their strong determination to fully adhere" to a 2020 agreement to strengthen the initial ceasefire.

That December agreement appears to have reduced violations, with January on track to be the least violent month since March 2021. Violations spiked in April when Russia deployed large numbers of troops around Ukraine and have remained high ever since.

Donbas could serve as one jumping-off point for a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine. The more than 100,000 Russian troops deployed along Ukraine's borders—backed by artillery, armored vehicles, and electronic warfare equipment—could attack Ukraine from the annexed Crimea peninsula in the south, allied Belarus in the north, and separatist-controlled Donbas in the east.

Months of de-escalation efforts have failed to end the standoff. Russia is demanding legal guarantees that Ukraine will not be allowed to join NATO; an ambition held by Kyiv since 2008 and a priority since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 and provided backing for eastern separatists.

Ukrainian, NATO, and U.S. leaders have dismissed Russia's demands as unrealistic and unfair. NATO membership, they say, must remain open to any nations that wish to join and meet the required criteria.

Russian officials are framing its military posture as purely defensive, and further NATO expansion as an existential threat to Moscow's security. Russia shares land borders with five NATO states—Norway, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia—and has accused the alliance of attempting to surround and subjugate the country.

Biden predicted Wednesday that Russian counterpart President Vladimir Putin may yet order an invasion.

"Do I think he'll test the West, test the United States and NATO, as significantly as he can? Yes, I think he will," Biden told reporters during a news conference at the White House.

"But I think he will pay a serious and dear price for it that he doesn't think now will cost him what it's going to cost him. And I think he will regret having done it."

Pushed on whether he expected an invasion, the president replied: "My guess is he will move in. He has to do something."

The U.S. and its NATO allies have vowed severe repercussions for Moscow if Russia invades Ukraine again. The White House is preparing fresh sanctions while expanding military aid for Ukraine.

This week, Canada sent special forces to Ukraine and the U.K. delivered equipment including anti-tank missiles. The U.S. has also given the green light for Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia to send American-made weapons to Ukraine.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Kyiv on Wednesday to show U.S. support for Ukraine. A State Department official traveling with Blinken told reporters: "We are committed to Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity and will continue to provide Ukraine the support it needs."

Alongside further sanctions, the Biden administration has suggested that Russian aggression will mean the end of the Russia-Germany Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline. The $11 billion pipeline is completed and awaiting final approval from German and European regulators.

Critics—among them NATO states such as the U.K., Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania and Poland—claim the project will allow Putin to hold Europe hostage and further isolate Ukraine, which currently earns billions in transit fees from Russian natural gas flowing through the country and into the European Union.

Ukraine soldier on Donbas front line
A Ukrainian soldier is pictured in a trench on the front line on December 12, 2021 in Zolote, Ukraine. Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images