Kremlin says separatists in Ukraine called on Russia for ‘help’ against Kyiv

The Kremlin announced on the night of Wednesday to Thursday that it had received a call for help from pro-Russian separatists to “repel” the Ukrainian army, a further sign of a possible Russian military intervention in Ukraine despite sanctions and an international outcry.

• Read also: Putin has ‘nearly 100%’ of forces needed for an invasion of Ukraine, Washington says

• Read also: World facing ‘a moment of peril’, warns UN chief

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During the day, Ukraine mobilized its reservists aged 18 to 60, voted a state of emergency and announced that it was the target of a new “massive” cyberattack targeting official websites, while more than 150,000 soldiers Russians, according to Washington and Kiev, are deployed on its borders.

President Vladimir Putin is ready for an invasion of his neighbor, with “nearly 100%” of the necessary forces in position, a senior American official said on Wednesday.

The world is “at a moment of peril”, warned UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres at the opening of a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly.

By a large majority, the Ukrainian deputies voted in favor of the introduction of the state of emergency requested by President Volodymyr Zelensky, the Secretary of the Security Council and National Defense Oleksiï Danilov denouncing on this occasion “the political aggression from Russia.

“Ukraine needs clear and concrete security guarantees immediately,” Zelensky had previously said. It is “the future of European security” that is at stake in Ukraine, he added.

Overnight, the Kremlin announced that the leaders of the self-proclaimed pro-Russian separatist “republics” in eastern Ukraine had asked for “help” from Vladimir Putin to “repel the aggression” of the Ukrainian army.

The Russian state news agency Tass published the letters to this effect dated February 22, that is to say Tuesday, the day when Russian parliamentarians authorized Vladimir Putin to deploy the army in Ukraine.

On Wednesday, Russia began evacuating its diplomatic personnel from Ukraine and the Russian flag no longer flies over its embassy in Kiev. The United States had already closed theirs.

The Russian president had hammered just before that Russian interests were “non-negotiable”. On Monday, in an angry speech, he questioned the very legitimacy of Ukraine’s existence, accusing it of being a tool in the hands of NATO’s anti-Russian aggression policy.

At the international level, an emergency summit of the leaders of the 27 EU countries on the Russia-Ukraine crisis will take place Thursday evening in Brussels. This meeting will have to show that “we are united”, underlined the French presidency.

US President Joe Biden has meanwhile announced sanctions against the company responsible for operating the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, which links Russia to Germany, and which Berlin had already put on hold.

The day before, he had already made public measures against Russian banks and oligarchs, denouncing the “beginning of an invasion” Russian in Ukraine.

British Foreign Minister Liz Truss on Wednesday deemed an invasion “highly probable”, while her French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian considered that “the worst” was possible.

Vladimir Putin, who since the beginning of the crisis in December sets the tempo, on Monday recognized the independence of the pro-Russian separatist “republics” of Donetsk and Lugansk, then obtained the next day from the upper house of Parliament the green light for a deployment of Russian forces.

While these decisions lay the foundations for a major intervention on the ground, no significant troop movement has been reported.

In the Russian region of Rostov, about fifty kilometers from the border, Russian forces are present in large numbers: military trucks, rocket launchers or howitzers, without signs of particular activity, according to AFP journalists.

Many fear that the crisis could lead to the most serious conflict in Europe since 1945.

Washington and its Western allies have taken the first sanctions in response to the recognition of the separatists that Kiev has been fighting for eight years, a conflict that has killed more than 14,000 people to date.

If Berlin froze the gigantic Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project, Mr. Biden for his part announced a “first tranche” of sanctions to prevent Russia from raising Western funds to repay its debt.

Moscow for its part promised a “strong” and “painful” response to the Americans.

These measures remain modest compared to those promised in the event of an invasion and Moscow can boast of having accumulated nearly 640 billion dollars in foreign exchange reserves and 183 billion in a sovereign fund to deal with them.

On the front, the resumption of fighting between the army and separatists in recent days did not stop on Wednesday. The belligerents continue to regularly exchange artillery fire, accusing each other of it. A Ukrainian soldier was killed, the ninth since January.

Lugansk separatists also announced the death of a fighter on Wednesday. A civilian was also killed in shelling during the night, according to the rebels.

A Russian intervention could result in “a new refugee crisis” with “up to five million additional people displaced”, further warned Wednesday the American ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield.


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