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21 Feb, 2022 11:56

Donbass rebels make urgent appeal to Russia

The request comes amid a worsening standoff across the contact line
Donbass rebels make urgent appeal to Russia

Officials in the breakaway Ukrainian region of Donetsk have called on Moscow to send urgent help amid a worsening standoff across the contact line, with Kiev’s troops and those loyal to the two self-declared republics accusing each other of heavy shelling.

Speaking to the Solovyov Live YouTube channel on Monday, Eduard Basurin, the spokesman for the Donetsk People’s Militia said that Moscow should provide moral support “first of all,” but that “I would not refuse any – military assistance is also needed, in different forms.”

The official also claimed that there is a war taking place in Donbass, adding, “the situation isn’t just difficult, it is genuinely critical.”

Separatist forces and those loyal to the government in Kiev have warned of a sharp escalation in hostilities along the contact line in recent days, accusing each other of firing rockets, mortar shells, and light arms across the divide.

Citing fresh fears of fighting, the rebel leaders of the so-called People’s Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk announced on Friday that they had begun evacuating residents to Russia as a result of the deteriorating security situation, and ordered the mobilization of all able-bodied men to be ready to fight in a potential conflict.

On Monday, officials in Donetsk declared a state of emergency, saying that their pump stations had stopped working amid the shelling and that they were unable to distribute drinking water. “In connection with intensive artillery strikes … over the past few days, there have been a series of breaches of the normal operation of systems of life support,” officials stated. According to them, more than 21,000 residents have been left without water.

Earlier this month, the Russian parliament voted in favor of a motion calling on President Vladimir Putin to recognize the independence of Donetsk and Lugansk. The motion led to speculation that such a decision could pave the way for Moscow to send troops to the region at the request of local leaders.

However, while the Kremlin is still developing a formal response, the Russian leader has said that any efforts to help the breakaway regions should be done in line with the 2014 Minsk agreements, which require a diplomatic solution to the standoff.

Last week, Putin urged the Ukrainian government to begin talks to put an end to the increasingly tense situation. “All Kiev needs to do is sit down at the negotiating table with representatives of the Donbass and agree on political, military, economic, and humanitarian measures to end this conflict. The sooner this happens, the better,” he said on Friday.

Western leaders have been warning for months of a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine, and have said that Moscow could use “false flag” operations against the Donbass territories to justify sending its army in. Russia has repeatedly denied that it has any aggressive intentions, and has called for security agreements that would limit the expansion of NATO, the US-led military bloc, into Eastern Europe.

On Friday, US President Joe Biden announced that he had intelligence that had led him to believe that Russian President Vladimir Putin had decided to attack, and that it would take place in the next several days. The Kremlin has consistently denied it is planning to launch an offensive, branding intelligence reports released by Washington as "hysteria."

On Sunday, French President Emmanuel Macron held calls with both Putin and Biden, and announced that the two leaders had agreed to meet to attempt to halt the escalation. Diplomats from Russia and the US will meet later this week, and will reportedly use the meeting to work out the substance of the summit.