Ukrainian officials are under attack; rebels mobilize troops | The world

MOSCOW (AP) – Pro-Russian separatist leaders in eastern Ukraine have ordered full military mobilization on Saturday, while Western leaders have issued increasingly serious warnings about Russia’s imminent invasion of its neighbor.

In new signs of fear that the war could start in a few days, Germany and Austria have told their citizens to leave Ukraine. German airline Lufthansa has canceled flights to the capital Kiev and Odessa, a Black Sea port that could be the main target of the invasion.

NATO’s Liaison Office in Kyiv said the redeployment of staff to Brussels and Lviv in western Ukraine.

Meanwhile, top Ukrainian military officials came under fire while bypassing the front of the nearly eight-year separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine.

Officials fled to the bomb shelter before rushing out of the area, according to an Associated Press reporter who was on tour.

Violence has intensified in eastern Ukraine in recent days as Ukraine and two rebel-held regions accuse each other of escalating. Russia said on Saturday that at least two shells fired from a government-controlled part of eastern Ukraine had crossed the border, but Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba dismissed the statement as a “fake statement”.

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Tanks are moving during the Russian-Belarusian exercises at the Obuz-Lesnovsky landfill in Belarus on Saturday. Russia has deployed troops to its ally Belarus to hold joint exercises, which continue until Sunday, fueling Western concerns that Moscow could use the exercises to attack Ukraine from the north.

AP Photo / Alexander Zemlyanichenko Jr.

For years, sporadic violence has erupted along the line separating Ukrainian forces from Russian-backed insurgents, but the recent surge in shelling and bombing could spark a full-scale war.

The United States and many European countries have argued for months that Russia, which has sent about 150,000 troops near the Ukrainian border, is trying to create grounds for an invasion.

“They are spinning and are now ready to strike,” US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said on Saturday during a visit to Lithuania.

US Vice President Kamala Harris met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday, opening the meeting by saying the world is at a “crucial moment in history.”

Zelensky suggested that the West has some responsibility, not responding more harshly when Russia annexed the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea in 2014.

“When a crater from a bomb appears in the schoolyard, the children have a question – has the world forgotten its mistakes of the twentieth century ?! What do attempts at appeasement lead to!” said the Ukrainian leader.

Earlier on Saturday, the head of the pro-Russian separatist government in the Donetsk region of Ukraine Denis Pushylin in his statement referred to the “imminent threat of aggression” by Ukrainian forces. Ukrainian officials have categorically denied plans to seize rebel-held territory by force.

“I appeal to all men in the country who can hold weapons to protect their families, their children, wives and mothers,” Pushylin said. “Together we will achieve the desired victory that we all need.”

A similar statement was made by his colleague in Luhansk region. On Friday, insurgents began evacuating civilians to Russia with an announcement that appears to be part of their and Moscow’s efforts to label Ukraine an aggressor. Ukrainian officials are under attack; rebels mobilize troops | The world

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