KYIV – The security situation around Ukraine continues to deteriorate as Russia has ramped up messages of war and conflict escalation.
Russian Foreign Affairs Minister Sergei Lavrov accused the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which monitors the war in eastern Ukraine, of hiding an increase in fighting.
Reuters on February 18 cited him as saying that the OSCE monitoring mission has started to try to “conceal events” in the war zone where the 57-nation member organization recorded 80 ceasefire violations the previous day.
Kyiv accused Russia of escalating fighting in the two easternmost regions of Luhansk and Donetsk. Civilian targets, including a day care center, were shelled with artillery fire from Russian-occupied areas on February 17.
Meanwhile, the Kremlin-installed puppet leader of the occupied part of Donetsk Oblast, Denys Pushylin, has accused Kyiv of planning an offensive to retake parts of the Donbas it does not control. He also announced that the proxy administration is staring to evacuate civilians from Donetsk and other occupied areas to Russia.
Ukrainian Foreign Affairs Minister Dmytro Kuleba rejected the notion that Ukraine was planning an offensive against the Russian-armed formations.
“We categorically refute Russian disinformation reports on Ukraine’s alleged offensive operations or acts of sabotage in chemical production facilities,” Mr. Kuleba tweeted. “Ukraine does not conduct or plan any such actions in the Donbas. We are fully committed to diplomatic conflict resolution only.”
Ukrainian Lt. Gen. Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, commander-in-chief of the armed forces, said that “the occupying state of the Russian Federation is responsible for the situation in the temporarily occupied territories.”
Russia has massed between 169,000-190,000 personnel “in and near Ukraine as compared with about 100,000 on January 30,” said Michael Carpenter, the U.S. ambassador to the OSCE.
This estimate includes Russian troops “along the border, in Belarus, and in occupied Crimea, as well as Russian National Guard and other internal security units deployed to these areas and Russian-led forces in eastern Ukraine,” he said.