On 31 March 2021, the U.S. European Command (EUCOM) raised its alert level from “possible crisis” to “potential imminent crisis” — the highest level of alert — following reports of increased Russian military activity near the border with Ukraine and the disputed territory of Crimea. Between 28 and 31 March, videos emerged on social media of the Russian military moving artillery, armored vehicles and heavy trucks by train to areas near Crimea. Independent experts have geolocated the footage, documenting military movements in the Russian cities of Fedosiya, Simferpol, the Kerch Strait, Rostov-on Don and Morozovsk. Russian media is reporting that the Russian Ministry of Defense has requisitioned as many as 16,000 railway flat cars, indicating likely deployments of additional armored vehicles. Russian officials for their part stated that the deployment of troops should not be cause for concern, claiming the recent movements are routine and are a response to increased NATO military activity. Ukrainian officials allege that Russia-supported separatists have engaged in what they refer to as “systematic” ceasefire violations in recent days and weeks.

Analyst Comment: Russia’s ongoing military activity strongly indicates that the deployments are outside normal patterns of military exercises. Organizations with assets and personnel in Ukraine should closely monitor associated forthcoming developments.