The shelling and evacuation of eastern Ukraine could provide an opportunity for Putin to invade.

For weeks, as Russia sent more and more troops to the Ukrainian border, the Biden administration had predicted that President Vladimir V. Putin would make some pretext for an invasion, possibly in eastern Ukraine, where it happened. conflict with Moscow-backed rebels. conducted for many years.

Now, developments there – driven in large part by separatists seen by many as Russia’s confidants – may present him with such an opportunity.

On Saturday, artillery fire escalated sharply in the east, and thousands of residents fled to Russia in a chaotic evacuation, fueled by claims by rebel leaders, without evidence. , that the Ukrainian military is planning a large-scale attack on the territory it controls.

Western leaders scoffed at the idea that Ukraine would launch such an operation while surrounded by Russian forces, and Ukrainian officials dismissed the claim as “a Russian lie .” But the ginned panic has had a real impact, with refugees frantically boarding buses and refugee camps flooding across the Russian border. Separatists urged women and children to leave and asked men to sign up to fight.

In Moscow, Putin put on a dramatic performance in the military theater, presiding over the tests of nuclear-capable missiles. Tensions between the United States and Russia have not been at such high levels since the Cold War, and Russia’s nuclear exercises appear carefully orchestrated to prevent the West from engaging directly militarily in Ukraine.

Western leaders gathered in Munich, where a security conference concluded on Sunday, have made numerous calls for a diplomatic solution to the crisis, despite President Biden’s statement on Monday. Friday that Mr. Putin. decided to invade.

But in Ukraine, the increasingly serious fighting nears a tipping point.

The number of mortars, artillery pieces and grenades launched by separatist rebels along the front lines has almost doubled the level of two days earlier, Ukraine’s interior ministry said. Two Ukrainian soldiers were killed and five wounded, the military said.

Ukrainian officials said the shelling came only from the separatists, who are seen as proxies of Russia. New York Times reporters at the scene witnessed artillery shelling from the separatists and did not see Ukrainian forces return fire, although residents in breakaway areas reported shelling from both sides.

Nadya Lapygina said: “I have a small baby and said her town in the Luhansk breakaway was hit by artillery and mortar fire. “You don’t know how scary it is to hide him from shelling.”

Intense shelling targeted government-controlled territory around the town of Svitlodarsk, a site that has worried security analysts for weeks because of its proximity to dangerous industrial infrastructure, including toxic gas tanks.

A stray shell fired by government fire was likely to hit a chemical plant some six kilometers away in rebel-held territory. The plant, one of Europe’s largest fertilizer plants, has pressurized tanks and more than 12 miles of pipelines filled with toxic ammonia gas.

An explosion there could create a toxic cloud that could be a pretext for a Russian invasion or, US officials have warned, Russia could orchestrate the explosion there itself to justify its own. Involvement.

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/20/world/europe/shelling-and-evacuations-in-ukraines-east-could-give-putin-a-pretext-to-invade.html The shelling and evacuation of eastern Ukraine could provide an opportunity for Putin to invade.

Fry Electronics Team

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