The self-proclaimed separatist republics of Donetsk and Lugansk, in eastern Ukraine and supported by Moscow, have ordered the mass evacuation of civilians to Russian territory for the alleged threat of a attack by the Ukrainian Army, who has denied this Friday that he intends to do so.
Donetsk leader Denis Pushilin announced at noon a “centralized mass departure” of the populationespecially women, children and the elderly, and warned that the Ukrainian president, Volodímir Zelenski, “will soon give a order to the Army for an offensive” that would invade the two self-proclaimed republics. For his part, the leader of Lugansk, Leonid Pásechnik, announced a similar measure hours later. According to both leaders, the evacuation of some 70,000 people is expected.
The measures have been announced amid renewed clashes between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian secessionists in Donbas. in some videos that were recorded on Wednesday, February 16, as revealed by the portal bellingcat through the study of video metadata. The tension in Ukraine is maximum and the West accuses Russia of orchestrating a fake crisis in eastern Ukraine: It is a “cynical maneuver” by the Kremlin that could serve as a false pretext for the invasion of the country, according to the United States.
The president of Russia, Vladimir Putin, confirmed this Friday an “aggravation” in eastern Ukraine. Hours after the announcement of the evacuation, the separatists have assured that in the middle of the afternoon it has been registered a car explosion near the government headquarters in Donetsk, as reported by the TASS news agency. There are no injuries in the incident, according to information from the Russian agency RIA.
Germany calls for reinforcement of OSCE mission in Donbas
The leader of the self-proclaimed republic of Lugansk has justified the evacuation as a method to “avoid casualties among the civilian population”. In addition, he stressed that Russia is “ready to guarantee the organized entry and location of residents of the Lugansk People’s Republic.”
In recent days, tension in Donbas has been increasing: according to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe more than 600 violations of peace treaties have been recorded in bombing. The West considers this to be part of the Russian propaganda machine, and calls on the OSCE to increase its presence in the area at a particularly sensitive time.
“The OSCE mission is very crucial now. We depend on their information when they tell us about attacks on kindergartens or explosions,” German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock warned at the Munich Security Conference, where Russia does not participate. . “They are the only ones who give us the mission. That is why it is so important that we support them.”
Ukraine assures that it does not plan any violent action
In an appearance before the Verkhovna Rada, the Ukrainian Parliament, the country’s Defense Minister, Oleksii Reznikov, stressed this Friday that Kiev does not plan any violent action against the separatist territories and bet on one peaceful solution to the conflict.
The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry has requested a international community response and has stressed that “the lack of an appropriate reaction or a neutral position only will encourage the escalation of Russia”.
In the last few hours there have been serious violations of the ceasefire installed in 2015 in eastern Ukraine. The Minister of Defense has stressed that only this Thursday, the separatists carried out 60 attacksof which 43 were with weapons prohibited by the Minsk Agreements.
According to Donetsk, the Ukrainian Army opened fire this Friday against the self-proclaimed republic 30 times, according to the TASS news agency. For their part, Ukrainian forces reported 45 violations of the ceasefire by pro-Russian separatists.
Ukrainian military intelligence has also reported through its Twitter account that Russian special forces have placed mines in various social infrastructure facilities in Donetsk to “create grounds and accuse Ukraine of terrorist acts”
Putin denounces an “aggravation” of the situation
The president of Russia, Vladimir Putin, has denounced this Friday a “Aggravation” of the situation in eastern Ukraine and has pointed out that “compliance with the Minsk Agreements is the guarantee for the restoration of peace in Ukraine and to end the tensions around this country.
“All Kiev has to do is sit at the table of conversations with representatives of Donbas and agree on political, military, economic and humanitarian measures to end the conflict,” the Russian president said. However, the pro-Russian separatists they refuse to hold talks with the Ukrainian government, as reported by the Interfax news agency. For its part, the RIA news agency has reported that the self-proclaimed republic of Donetsk has stated that it would only agree to such talks if there were specific proposals to discuss.
The governor of the Russian region of Rostov has asked the president for help before the massive arrival of evacuees from Donbas. Given this situation, Putin has ordered his Minister for Emergencies, Aleksand Chuprian, to travel to Rostov, on the border with Ukraine, and organize shelters for residents of the Donbas region. The Kremlin spokesman, Dmitri Peskov, has stated that Putin has also ordered the government “to grant aid of 10,000 rubles (about 114 euros) to each evacuee“.