Ukraine denies sending ‘saboteurs’ into Russia

Published on Feb 22, 2022 03:51 AM IST
  • The Russian military said five people had been killed when the Ukrainian saboteurs were thwarted.
Tanks operate during joint exercises of the armed forces of Russia and Belarus at a firing range near Brest, Belarus. (AFP)
Tanks operate during joint exercises of the armed forces of Russia and Belarus at a firing range near Brest, Belarus. (AFP)
Agencies | , Moscow/paris

Russia’s military said on Monday Ukrainian military saboteurs had tried to enter Russian territory in armed vehicles, an accusation dismissed as “fake news” by Kiev amid Western accusations that Moscow could fabricate a pretext to invade.

The Russian military said five people had been killed when the Ukrainian saboteurs were thwarted. Ukraine and its Western allies have been saying for days that Moscow could manufacture a pretext to invade Ukraine with a huge force it has massed on the border.

Claims, counterclaims

Russia’s military said troops and border guards had prevented a “diversionary reconnaissance” group from breaching Russia’s border from Ukrainian territory near Rostov and that five people had been killed, Russian news agencies reported.

Interfax cited the Russian military as saying that Ukrainian armed vehicles had been destroyed.

Ukraine rejected the report, calling it fake news, and said no Ukrainian forces were present in the Rostov region where the incident was alleged to have taken place.

Satellite imagery released at the weekend appeared to show Russian deployments closer to Ukraine’s border than before.

Russia has tens of thousands of soldiers in Belarus - part of what Washington says is a force now numbering 169,000-190,000 troops in the region, including pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine.

After talks in Brussels with Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg, British foreign minister Liz Truss said Western countries were preparing for a “worst-case scenario”. The airlines Lufthansa, KLM and Air France all cancelled flights to Kiev. But the European Union rebuffed a call from Kiev to impose some sanctions now to try to avert war before it started

Putin to recognise

rebel territories as independent: Kremlin

Russian President Vladimir Putin will recognise the independence of eastern Ukraine’s separatist republics, the Kremlin said in a statement on Monday, adding that he had informed the French and German leaders of his decision.

“In the near future, the president plans to sign the order,” the Kremlin said. It added that French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz had “expressed disappointment” over the decision in phone calls with Putin.

Earlier, presiding over a long and carefully stage-managed meeting of his powerful Security Council, Putin listened to senior officials say it was time for Russia to recognise the breakaway regions of Donetsk and Lugansk as independent.

“I have heard your opinions. The decision will be taken today,” the Russian leader said after the meeting, which aired on state television for more than 90 minutes.

Such recognition would put an end to an already shaky peace plan in the separatist conflict, which has rumbled on since 2014 after Moscow annexed Crimea from Ukraine and has left more than 14,000 dead. Russia could now move in troops to protect hundreds of thousands of residents in the regions who have been granted Russian passports, justifying an intervention as a defence of its citizens.

Ukraine would either have to accept the loss of a huge chunk of territory, or face an armed conflict with its vastly more powerful neighbour.

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