As hundreds of US troops carry out a training program for Ukraine's National Guard, Russian forces are up to something a lot shadier, according to the State Department. The department accuses Moscow of violating the already shaky Minsk ceasefire deal by deploying air defense systems in eastern Ukraine, building them up to their highest level since August last year, the BBC reports. A department spokeswoman says Russia now has more troops and equipment along the border since October last year, when fighting was heavy. And training missions in eastern Ukraine, some involving Russian drone aircraft, leave "no doubt" that Moscow's forces are present on the other side of the border, the Los Angeles Times reports.
It's not clear whether Moscow is really planning to reignite the conflict or just wants to keep pressure on the Kiev government, but "there is palpable concern in Washington that a brief lull is only temporary," a Carnegie Endowment for International Peace analyst tells the LA Times. Whatever Russia's intentions, analysts warn that if Russia and pro-Russia rebels decide to launch a major new offensive in eastern Ukraine, Kiev and its allies would now have little warning, the New York Times reports. Moscow, meanwhile, says the arrival of around 250 US paratroopers to train Ukrainian forces is a "provocation" that could "seriously destabilize" the situation, the BBC reports. (Read more Ukraine stories.)