Separatists in eastern Ukraine have gathered children at an orphanage to begin evacuations to Russia. The Russian news agency Interfax reported on Friday.
After diplomats reported the fiercest fighting since 2015, the pro-Russian leadership of the separatist areas urged civilians to flee to Russia. First, “women, children and the elderly” should be brought to safety, Donetsk separatist chief Denis Puschilin said in a speech published on Friday. “A temporary departure will save you and your relatives’ lives.”
Denis Pushilin said Russia had agreed to provide shelter for people fleeing increased artillery attacks when warning sirens were heard in the rebel-held region on Friday. Russia-backed separatists and Ukrainian government forces have accused each other of shelling and ceasefire violations for the second straight day.
The separatists accused Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of wanting to launch an offensive “in the near future”. Pushilin said that combat troops were ready to defend “national territory” against an attack by Ukraine. “We will win,” he said at the end of the video message.
Responding to the Russian “disinformation” on Twitter, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba stated that “we categorically reject the allegations” that Kiev is conducting offensive operations or acts of sabotage.
A short time later, the leadership of the second separatist “republic” of Luhansk made similar statements to Pushilin. Civilians should also be evacuated from there. A little later, eyewitnesses reported that loud sirens could be heard in the center of the separatist capital, Donetsk.