This week marks the first anniversary of Russia's legal annexation of Crimea, a territory of Ukraine that was seized in the aftermath of a revolt in Kiev.
The Russian president's perceived provocations are leading many former East bloc nations – from Poland to the Baltics – to start their own military readiness campaigns.
Kiev says that rebels have blocked rescue workers from reaching the mine, where dozens are feared dead.
A newly forged cease-fire all but collapsed as government troops withdrew from the transit hub of Debaltseve in what appears to be another implicit victory for Russia's Vladimir Putin.
An internationally brokered cease-fire took effect Sunday. But fighting between Army forces and rebels raged in the strategic rail hub, with both sides refusing to withdraw heavy weaponry.
Russia’s leader keeps his relationships in the Kremlin's halls of power private. But military and security types seem to be gaining favor over once-prominent oligarchs and ideologues.
Russia-backed rebels say they have surrounded a key transportation hub, while government forces have opened a new front near the port of Mariupol.
The French and German leaders will then proceed to Moscow. NATO has also announced a 'spearhead' force that will deploy in the Baltics as a deterrent to what many in Europe see as growing Russian assertiveness.
Separatist leader Alexander Zakharchenko said he would recruit an additional 100,000 men to fight against Ukraine's government troops. Fighting has intensified in 2015 after a lull at the end of the year.
Mikhail Gorbachev, the former Soviet leader, said the West was 'dragging' Russia into confrontation.