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Ukraine: Putin supervises strategic exercises, tensions at their highest | Ukraine: a country torn between East and West

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As incidents multiply on the front in eastern Ukraine, pro-Russian separatists, who accuse Kiev of wanting to retake their regions, have announced a general mobilization men fit to fight.

On the Ukrainian side, the military command announced on Saturday that a soldier had been killed in clashes with Moscow-backed separatists.

These announcements come at a time when Vladimir Putin is personally supervising large-scale military maneuvers and tests of ballistic and cruise missiles capable of carrying nuclear payloads.

Biden convinced that Putin wants to invade Ukraine

Joe Biden.

US President Joe Biden delivers a speech on the Ukrainian crisis and the impending Russian invasion.

Photo: Reuters/KEVIN LAMARQUE

US President Joe Biden has declared himself convinced Friday evening that Vladimir Putin had decided to invade Ukraine, and that the multiplication of clashes aimed to create a false justification to launch the offensive in the week or even the days to come.

But he left the door open to dialogue. Until an invasion has occurred, diplomacy is always a possibilityhe said, announcing a meeting between his Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov next Thursday.

If the Kremlin continues to deny any intention to attack its neighbor, it demands guarantees for the security of Russia, such as the withdrawal of theNorth Atlantic Treaty Organization from Eastern Europe, which the West refuses.

Army and separatists clash

In eastern Ukraine, the Ukrainian Armed Forces and pro-Russian separatists accused each other on Saturday of serious ceasefire violations.

The Ukrainian army reported 66 exchanges of mortar fire, 82 and 110 mm caliber, on the towns of the front until 7 a.m., a particularly high number.

And observers of theOrganization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said on Saturday that they had observed a dramatic increase ceasefire violations, for a total of 870 on Friday.

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According to them, the number of armed incidents on the front line is now the same as before July 2020, when an agreement was reached to strengthen the ceasefire.

Two Ukrainian soldiers aboard a moving tank.

Servicemen of the Ukrainian Armed Forces conduct live-fire exercises near the city of Chuguev in the Kharkiv region on February 10, 2022.

Photo: Getty Images / SERGEY BOBOK

Despite the deterioration of the situation, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has decided to maintain his planned trip to the Munich security conference on Saturday.

According to the presidency, the situation in the east of the country stay fully under control.

For her part, the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen estimated on Saturday that Russia was leading a a blatant attempt to rewrite the rules of the international order.

We can’t let this happenshe said.

Pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian forces have been fighting since 2014 in eastern Ukraine, in a conflict that has already claimed more than 14,000 lives.

Evacuation of civilians to Russia

In addition, the Russian state agency Ria Novosti reported on Friday two explosions, including that of an oil pipeline, in Lugansk, a city in eastern Ukraine held by the separatists. And the authorities of the pro-Russian secessionist territories have ordered the evacuation of civilians to Russia.

On Saturday, the Russian region of Rostov, bordering Ukraine, declared a state of emergency over the influx of refugees from separatist regions in eastern Ukraine. Several thousand people have left these areas, according to pro-Russian local officials.

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For its part, Russia has never disclosed the number of its soldiers massed on the borders of Ukraine or participating in maneuvers in neighboring Belarus.

However, Washington estimates that Russia has 190,000 men on the outskirts of Ukraine and on its territory, including the separatist forces. This is largest concentration of military troops since the Cold War, said the Secretary General of theNorth Atlantic Treaty OrganizationJens Stoltenberg, judging that Moscow was able, without further warning, to attack.

Russian troops massed on the Ukrainian border unfold and are about to strike this country, said US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin during a visit to Lithuania on Saturday.

The Russian-led exercises on Saturday involve forces from the Southern Military District, the Aerospace Forces, the Northern and Black Sea Fleets as well as the strategic forces. The latter are equipped with missiles with intercontinental range, strategic bombers, submarines, surface ships and naval aviation carrying conventional missiles.

According to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, this is a regular training process.

The West unanimously promised Moscow devastating economic sanctions in the event of an invasion of Ukraine.

But Vladimir Putin brushed off the threat again: Sanctions will be introduced no matter what. Whether there is a reason or not, they will find one, because their aim is to hinder the development of Russia.

The speaker of the lower house of the Russian parliament, Vyacheslav Volodin, assured that Russia would defend the Russian citizens who live in separatist territories in Ukraine if their lives were threatened.

If war begins, Europe will become the theater of hostilitieshe warned.

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