Separatist Leader Orders General Mobilization As Western Nations Warn Of Russia Staging Incidents

Separatist Leader Orders General Mobilization As Western Nations Warn Of Russia Staging Incidents

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4 hr 7 min agoSeparatist leader orders general mobilization as Western nations warn of Russia staging incidentsFrom CNN’s Jake Kwon in Seoul

People are seen inside a bus in Donetsk, Ukraine, on Friday, February 18, after pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine’s breakaway regions ordered the evacuation of civilians to Russia.  (Erik Romanenko/TASS/Getty Images)The leader of pro-Russian separatists in the breakaway state of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, Denis Pushilin, ordered a general mobilization on Saturday.

Pushilin said he signed an order for general mobilization, claiming that Ukraine was planning an offensive against the region, also known as Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), in a video published on his Telegram account.

“I appeal to all the men of the republic, who are able to hold weapons in their hands, stand up for their families, their children, wives, mothers,” Pushilin said.

The evacuation of civilians has commenced, and several buses carrying residents had already arrived in Rostov-on-Don in Russia, Pushilin added.

The bigger picture: On Friday, Pushilin urged women, children, and the elderly to evacuate to Russia ahead of a purported Ukrainian invasion. 

While there has been a sharp rise in ceasefire violations across what is known as the line of contact between Ukrainian and Russian-backed separatist forces in the past two days, Ukrainian officials deny any plans to retake the Donbas region by force, saying that they see this week’s incidents as an effort by Russia to create a pretext to launch an invasion.

On Friday, Foreign Ministers of Germany and France said they do not see “any grounds” for DPR’s allegation, warning that “staged incidents could be misused as a pretext for possible military escalation.”

4 hr 36 min agoUkraine’s President vows to attend Munich Security Conference on SaturdayFrom CNN’s Mick Krever in Kramatorsk, Ukraine

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visits the border troops in Donetsk, Ukraine on February 17. (Ukrainian Presidency/Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has confirmed his presence at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday before returning to Kyiv later in the day, his office said in a statement Saturday morning. 

Zelensky will hold talks with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and US Vice President Kamala Harris, the statement said.

“Zelensky expects concrete agreements on providing our country with additional military and financial support to strengthen Ukraine’s resilience,” it added.

The statement continued: “Naturally, the discussions at the Munich Security Conference this year will focus on current threats in Eastern Europe and the situation around Ukraine. Therefore, the position of our state must be presented enough for the issues of Ukraine to be resolved with the participation of Ukraine.

“The situation on the touch line in Donbas, in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and near the borders of Ukraine is being analyzed by special services of our state. There is a constant analysis of intelligence and exchange of information with partners. Ukraine regularly receives additional up-to-date intelligence on the activity of Russian forces.

“The situation in the east of the country is completely controlled by the Ukrainian security and defense forces.”

Some background: CNN reported Friday Biden administration officials have privately urged Zelensky not to leave Ukraine to visit Munich given concerns about a possible incursion from Russia, according to three US officials and one senior Ukrainian official.

“That is a decision for him to make, but regardless of what decision he makes, he will find a strong partner in the United States,” said White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki during the briefing when asked if it would be wise for Zelensky to make that trip. 

Some US officials are concerned that if he leaves the country that could open the door for Russia to make false claims that he has fled. While officials had not explicitly asked Zelensky not to make the trip – and have been careful to make clear the decision was his to make – those concerns were communicated, one of the officials said. 

4 hr 43 min agoSeparatists in eastern Ukraine order mass evacuation as Ukraine warns of Russian provocationFrom CNN’s Tim Lister and Tamara Qiblawi in Kyiv and Lviv

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine’s breakaway regions ordered the evacuation of civilians to Russia Friday, accusing Ukraine of planning a large military offensive against the two self-declared republics.

The restive eastern part of the country has witnessed the worst shelling in years over the last two days.

Each side accuses the other of heavy shelling of civilian areas. Ukrainian authorities say there were 60 breaches of the ceasefire Thursday, many of them by heavy weapons.

The Ukrainian government denies that it is planning any offensive in the east, accusing the separatists of launching a “disinformation campaign.”

Authorities in the breakaway states of Donetsk and Luhansk said they were organizing the evacuations. Leonid Pasechnik, the most senior official in the pro-Russian breakaway Luhansk People’s Republic, urged men to take up arms.

“The Russian Federation is ready to provide organized reception and accommodation on its

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