Institutional investors and speculators are extending the rally in gold exchange traded funds, with bullion experiencing its best start in six years, as the standoff on the Crimea peninsula fuels safe-haven demand.

The SPDR Gold Shares (NYSEArca: GLDhas gained 1.7% since Russian troops entered Ukraine at the start of the month. The ETF is now up 11.2% year-to-date. [ETF Chart of the Day: Gaga for Gold]

Hedge funds and other speculators are increasing bets on gold futures for the fourth week and are now the most bullish since December 2012, with gold prices rising about 12% to a high of $1,350 per ounce this year, Bloomberg reports.

Meanwhile, investors are pouring back into gold-related ETFs, with GLD poised for its first quarterly asset gain in a year, after investors dumped the asset last year in anticipation of Fed tapering.

According to Bloomberg data, gold-backed ETF holdings increased by 8.4 metric tons, the most since October 2012, to 1,762.5 tons.

“The Ukraine situation is lending support to gold,” Frank McGhee, the head dealer at Integrated Brokerage Services LLC, said in a separate Bloomberg article. “The fear premium is back because of the developments.”