Observers from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe said Saturday they had seen a significant rise in the number of attacks along the frontline in eastern Ukraine. The announcement came as Russian President Vladimir Putin is set to personally oversee previously scheduled military drills along Ukraine's borders. Follow FRANCE 24's live updates on the crisis.
War fears mounted on Saturday as the OSCE Special Monitoring to Ukraine (SMM) said it has observed a “dramatic increase in kinetic activity along the contact line in eastern Ukraine". In his latest comments, US President Joe Biden said that the invasion would come in the next week or days, but Russia continues to say it has no plans to attack.
08:58am Paris time
Ukrainian military says soldier killed in separatist east
A Ukrainian soldier was killed Saturday in clashes with Moscow-backed rebels in the separatist east, the army said, as fears grow that Russia is preparing to invade.
"As a result of a shelling attack, one Ukrainian soldier received a fatal shrapnel wound," the joint military command for east Ukraine reported.
The announcement came hours after leaders of Ukraine's two breakaway regions announced a general mobilisation.
08:47am Paris time
Putin to speak to Macron on Sunday, says Kremlin
President Putin will hold a telephone call with French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday, according to the Kremlin, as tensions spike in the crisis over Ukraine.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the call was "on the president's schedule" for Sunday.
07:52am Paris time
Ukraine rebel leader announces 'general mobilisation'
The leader of the east Ukraine breakaway region of Donetsk has announced a general mobilisation in a video statement.
"I urge my fellow citizens who are in the reserves to come to military conscription offices. Today I signed a decree on general mobilisation," said Denis Pushilin, the leader of the so-called Donetsk People's Republic.
Pushilin claimed his region's forces had prevented attacks he said were planned by Ukraine, and that the Ukrainian army had continued attacks.
"Together, we will achieve for all of us the victory we desire and need. We will protect Donbas and all Russian people," Pushilin added.
Kyiv has repeatedly denied any plans to regain control of separatist-held areas using force, including the Crimean peninsula, which was annexed by Moscow in 2014.
07:35am Paris time
Ukraine reports 12 ceasefire violations by separatists this morning
The Ukrainian military said it recorded 12 ceasefire violations by pro-Russian separatists in east Ukraine on Saturday morning after 66 cases over the previous 24 hours.
Separatists opened fire on more than 20 settlements, using heavy artillery, which have been prohibited by Minsk agreements, the military said on its Facebook page.
Incidents of shelling across the line dividing government forces and separatists increased sharply this week, in what the Ukrainian government called a provocation. It strongly denied suggestions by Russia that Kyiv could launch an offensive in eastern Ukraine.
6:37am Paris time
Harris to push for Western unity at Munich Security Conference
US Vice President Kamala Harris was expected to use a highly anticipated speech at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday to warn Russia that it will face huge financial costs if it further invades Ukraine, while underscoring that an invasion will only draw European allies closer to the US.
Harris is set to make the case to a largely European audience that the West has “strength through unity” and that an invasion would likely lead to an even bigger NATO footprint on Russia’s doorsteps, according to a senior administration official who briefed reporters on Harris’ diplomatic efforts in Munich and spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Harris on Friday declared "our greatest strength is our unity” as she met with the leaders of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania on the sidelines of the conference. The Baltic countries have requested the US increase its troop presence on the eastern edge of NATO. “This is a moment that has made that clear: that our unity is evidence and is a measure of our strength.”
5:20am Paris time
Russia rejects claims it was responsible for cyberattack on Ukraine
Moscow has rejected US allegations that it was responsible for cyberattacks on Ukrainian banking and government websites as baseless, the Russian embassy in the United States said on Twitter.
"We categorically reject these baseless statements of the administration and note that Russia has nothing to do with the mentioned events and in principle has never conducted and does not conduct any 'malicious' operations in cyberspace," it said.
US Deputy National Security Advisor Anne Neuberger said on Friday that Russian military intelligence was behind the recent spate of distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks that briefly knocked Ukrainian banking and government websites offline.
We have taken note of purely anti-Russian statements of Deputy National Security Advisor Anne Neuberger, who accused the Russian special services of cyberattacks on Ukrainian defense agencies and banks. pic.twitter.com/AVuyQ8swWl
— Russian Embassy in USA 🇷🇺 (@RusEmbUSA) February 19, 2022
02:35am Paris time
OSCE monitors report 'dramatic increase' in ceasefire violations
Observers from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe said Saturday they had seen a significant rise in the number of attacks along the frontline in eastern Ukraine.
"In recent days, the OSCE Special Monitoring to Ukraine (SMM) has observed a dramatic increase in kinetic activity along the contact line in eastern Ukraine," the OSCE said in a statement, adding that the number of ceasefire violations was equal to numbers reported before a July 2020 agreement to strengthen the ceasefire.
The OSCE reported there had been 222 ceasefire violations for the Donetsk region on Thursday, including 135 explosions, up from 189 the previous day and 24 on Tuesday.
For the Lugansk region, it reported 648 violations, including 519 explosions, up from 402 the previous day and 129 on Tuesday.
The monitor called on both sides "to strictly adhere to all of the commitments they have made, and take all necessary steps to reduce tensions and work towards immediate de-escalation for the benefit of the lives of innocent civilians," the statement said.
The OSCE, which includes Russia and the United States as member states, deployed its peace-monitoring mission in Ukraine in 2014 following Moscow's annexation of Crimea. The armed conflict between Kyiv and pro-Russia separatists in the country's east has claimed more than 14,000 lives.
00:54am Paris time
Biden says Putin will invade 'in the coming days'
US President Joe Biden has said he is convinced President Putin has decided to launch an invasion of Ukraine, and that an assault could happen in the "coming days".
"We have reason to believe the Russian forces are planning to and intend to attack Ukraine in the coming week, in the coming days," Biden told reporters at the White House, adding that Kyiv would be a target.
"As of this moment, I am convinced that he has made the decision."
Biden reiterated his threat of massive economic and diplomatic sanctions against Russia if it does invade, and pressed Putin to rethink his course of action. He said the US and its Western allies were more united than ever to ensure Russia pays a price for the invasion.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and REUTERS)