Ukraine’s commander-in-chief warns Russian proxy forces plan provocations in Donbas
Russian proxy forces in the Donbas are planning new provocations in order to supply the Kremlin with a pretext to launch an invasion, Ukrainian army chief Lieutenant General Valeriy Zaluzhny wrote on Facebook on Feb. 17.
He added that Ukrainian intelligence has indicated that Russian proxies may be planning to evacuate local residents from non-government-controlled territory close to the front line.
His comment came as Russian occupying forces shelled several civilian areas in the Donbas in the morning of Feb. 17.
The commander-in-chief said the Ukrainian military was not planning any offensive actions and would not shell civilians.
“Any damage that can be caused to people or infrastructure in the temporarily occupied territories is a provocation,” Zaluzhny said.
“The Ukrainian side is already informing international organizations about the (Russian proxies’) preparations for these sorts of provocations.”
Amid the ongoing threat of Russian invasion, Russian proxy forces in the Donbas on Feb. 17 upped tensions in the government-controlled parts of Luhansk and Donetsk Oblasts, firing not only on Ukrainian military positions, but also on several civilian areas – 47 times in total, Ukrainian forces reported.
A kindergarten, a school, a railway station and a train came under enemy fire, though there were fortunately no casualties.
Russia has since late October been massing troops at its borders with Ukraine and in Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, which Russia has occupied since 2014.
On Feb. 16, the U.S.-based CNN TV channel reported, citing a Ukrainian intelligence report, that the total number of Russian troops at the border had increased in recent days to more than 148,000, including over 126,000 ground troops, but that that is insufficient for a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
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