Fears that Russia would use “false flag” incidents as a pretext for invading Ukraine grew Saturday amid multiple reports alleging Ukraine’s government was attacking separatists aligned with Russia.
On Friday, an explosion was reported near Luhansk, located in the pro-Russia region of Ukraine, hours after an apparent car bomb exploded in Donetsk, according to the New York Post.
President Joe Biden on Friday said the world should expect Russia to sweep into Ukraine any day.
“We have reason to believe the Russian forces are planning to, intend to, attack Ukraine in the coming week, in the coming days,” Biden said, according to The New York Times. “We believe that they will target Ukraine’s capital Kyiv, a city of 2.8 million innocent people.”
Kiev ~ Ukraine 🇺🇦 💛🕊🕊🕊 pic.twitter.com/k6hFlarRq6
— Alexandra (@paparosso60) February 19, 2022
Asked about Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s plans, Biden said he was “convinced he’s made the decision” to invade.
Last week, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said Russia’s script for an invasion would begin with attacks it would blame on Ukraine, according to The Washington Post.
“We are firmly convinced that the Russians, should they decide to move forward with an invasion, are looking hard at the creation of a false-flag operation, something that they generate and try to blame on the Ukrainians as a trigger for military action. And we are calling that out publicly because we do believe that if Russia chooses to do that, they should be held to account,” Sullivan said.
That appeared to be playing out on the ground as separatist leader Denis Pushilin has ordered women, children and elderly residents to flee because of alleged Ukrainian attacks.
“In recent months, we have been observing a daily increase in the number of military personnel and lethal weapons by Ukraine, including Smerch and Uragan multiple launch rocket systems, NLAW rocket launchers, as well as Javelins and Stingers along the entire line of contact,” Pushilin said Friday, according to the New York Post.
KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Metadata: 2 videos posted Friday by Russia-backed separatists on emergency civilian evacuation were created 2 days ago.
— Zeke Miller (@ZekeJMiller) February 18, 2022
That this was perhaps a bit of political theater was noted in an Associated Press report that said metadata in the video file showed the recording was made Wednesday but not released until Friday.
Ukraine denied the claims.
“We categorically refute Russian disinformation reports on Ukraine’s alleged offensive operations or acts of sabotage in chemical production facilities,” Ukraine Foreign Minister Dymtro Kuleba tweeted. “Ukraine does not conduct or plan any such actions in the Donbas. We are fully committed to diplomatic conflict resolution only.”
But the statement was drowned out in the claims from the separatist regions, including a call to arms by leaders there.
As I was hearing narrative regarding Donbas, I wasn’t at all familiar with its location.
I found this map to be helpful. pic.twitter.com/xv3hwUves4
— Barbara Holton (@HoltonBarb) February 19, 2022
“I urge my fellow citizens who are in the reserves to come to military conscription offices. Today I signed a decree on general mobilization,” Pushilin said Saturday, according to The Moscow Times.
The leader of the Luhansk separatist region, Leonid Pasechnik, also called for a general mobilization of troops to prepare for “repelling aggression.”
On Thursday, a Russian statement alleged that Ukraine had been “exterminating the civilian population of the People’s Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk” and was conducting “genocide of the Russian-speaking population of Donbas,” according to the Independent.
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