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Zelenskyy of Ukraine calls upon Putin to meet with him as tensions soar

Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine, who is facing an increase in violence on and around the territory held by Russia-backed rebels, and growing warnings about Russia's plans to invade, called Saturday for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s meeting to resolve the crisis.

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Zelenskyy of Ukraine calls upon Putin to meet with him as tensions soar

At the Munich Security Conference Zelenskyy stated that he doesn't know the Russian Federation's wishes so he proposed a meeting. He also met with Kamala Harris, the U.S. Vice-President. Zelenskyy stated that Russia could choose the location for the talks.

"Ukraine will not change its diplomatic approach in the interest of peaceful settlement."

The Kremlin did not immediately respond.

Zelenskyy spoke after separatist leaders from eastern Ukraine ordered full military mobilization Saturday, while Western leaders issued increasingly dire warnings about a Russian invasion of its neighbor.

Germany and Austria warned their citizens to leave Ukraine in the latest sign of war looming. Lufthansa, the German airline, cancelled flights to Kyiv and Odessa. Odessa is a Black Sea port that could become a target for an invasion.
NATO's Kyiv liaison office stated that it is moving staff to Brussels and Lviv in western Ukraine. During a tour to the front of the almost eight-year-old separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine, top Ukrainian military officers were shelled.

According to an Associated Press journalist on the tour, the officials fled to a bomb shelter and then hustled from the area.

In recent days, violence in eastern Ukraine has increased as both the rebels and Ukraine accuse each other of escalating. Russia claimed that at least two shells from an area of eastern Ukraine controlled by the government were fired across the border on Saturday, but Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine's Foreign Minister, dismissed this claim as "a false statement."

Although there has been some violence along the line that separates the Ukrainian forces from the Russia-backed rebels for many years, the recent bombing and shelling spike may have triggered a full-scale conflict.

Many European countries and the United States have claimed for months that Russia, with its 150,000 troops stationed near the Ukrainian border has been trying to invent pretexts to invade.

"They are uncoiling, and are now poised for strike," U.S. Defense secretary Lloyd Austin stated Saturday while visiting Lithuania.

Harris began her meeting with Zelenskyy saying that the world was at a "decisive moment in history".

In an earlier Saturday announcement, Denis Pushilin (head of the pro-Russian separatist government in Ukraine’s Donetsk) mentioned an "immediate threat to aggression" by Ukrainian forces. Officials from Ukraine denied that they had plans to forcefully take over rebel-controlled territories.

Pushilin stated, "I appeal all men in the republic that can hold weapons to protect their families, their wives, mothers," Pushilin said, "Together, we will achieve that coveted victory we all want."

His counterpart in the Luhansk area made a similar statement. The rebels started evacuating civilians from Russia on Friday. This announcement appeared to be part both of Moscow and their efforts to portray Ukraine as aggressor.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Bock stated that evacuation orders could be used to spark a larger attack.

She stated, "To put it very clearly: Ukraine didn't give any grounds for evacuation that was ordered yesterday." "Those are all the facts. It is not acceptable to make up war reasons out of thin air.

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Biden stated, "As of the moment, I'm sure he's made that decision." "We have reasons to believe that." Biden reiterated that an assault could take place in the "coming days".

Biden was informed about Harris' meetings at Munich, and has been receiving regular updates on Ukraine, White House press secretary Jen Psaki stated in a statement Saturday. She said that Biden will be discussing Ukraine at a meeting with his National Security Council Sunday.

On Saturday, Russia also conducted large-scale nuclear drills. According to the Kremlin, Putin, who promised to defend Russia's national interests from what it considers encroaching Western threats was watching the drills with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko in the situation room.

The planned exercise includes the Crimea-based Black Sea Fleet. After seizing the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in 2014, Russia annexed it.

A U.S. defense official stated that an estimated 40% to 50% (or more) of the Ukrainian ground forces have moved to attack positions closer to the border, underscoring West's concern about an invasion.

Other officials said that the shift has been occurring for approximately a week and does not necessarily indicate that Putin has made a decision to invade. To discuss internal U.S. military assessments, the defense official spoke under anonymity.

Officials also stated that the number of Russian ground units, known as battalion tactical teams in the border region, had increased to as high as 125. This is an increase from 83 just two weeks ago. Each group is composed of 750-1000 soldiers.

The lines of communication between Moscow, the West and Moscow remain open. Friday's talks were held by the American and Russian defense chiefs. French President Emmanuel Macron has scheduled a call with Putin on Sunday. Antony Blinken, U.S. Secretary Of State, and Sergey Lavrov, Russian Foreign Minister, agreed to meet next Wednesday.

The immediate concern is for eastern Ukraine where pro-Russian rebels have been fighting Ukrainian forces since 2014. This conflict has claimed the lives of approximately 14,000 people. It is not uncommon for violations of the ceasefire agreement of 2015, such as shelling along the line of direct contact and shooting.

On Friday, a car bomb was detonated in the middle of Donetsk, a rebel-controlled city. Two explosions rattled the rebel-controlled Luhansk on Saturday morning, adding to tensions. The incidents resulted in no injuries.

Two soldiers from Ukraine were killed in fighting with rebels on Saturday, according to the military.

Separatists from the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine, which make up the industrial heartland of Ukraine, announced Saturday morning that thousands of people had been evacuated from the rebel-controlled areas to Russia.

Russian authorities have issued around 700,000 passports to the residents of rebel-held territories. The military might use the claim that Russian citizens are in danger to justify its actions.

In a video statement, Pushilin, head of the Donetsk rebel regime, claimed that Ukraine was about to launch an offensive in the region.

The AP confirmed that metadata from the two videos by separatists announcing evacuation showed that the files were created on two days ago. The U.S. authorities claim that the Kremlin could have used prerecorded videos to create an invasion pretext in its attempt to make the evacuation announcement.

Russia's Rostov Region, bordering eastern Ukraine declared an emergency due to the influx of refugees. According to media reports, Saturday's chaos was witnessed at the camps that were being used to house the refugees from eastern Ukraine. According to reports, there were long lines of buses waiting for people to get on board and hundreds of people lining up in the cold to be accommodated.

Putin directed the Russian government in Moscow to pay 10,000 rubles (about $130), to each evacuee. This amount is roughly half of an eastern Ukrainian monthly salary.


 

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