Putin’s End Game? Or Pretext? Russia’s lower house of parliament has voted to ask leader Vladimir Putin to recognize two Russian-backed breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine as independent. The long-anticipated move by the lower house of the State Duma, if approved, could serve as a pretext or be part of Putin’s Ukraine end game.
This coincides with the reported mass evacuation of civilians by Russian backed Ukrainian separatists from these regions.
Pro-Russian separatist leaders in eastern Ukraine ordered the mass evacuation of women, children and elderly civilians to Russia on Friday, alleging that Ukraine was preparing a military offensive. Ukraine immediately denied the accusations.
Why it matters: U.S. officials have warned that Russia is preparing to manufacture a pretext to invade Ukraine in the coming days, and that it could take the form of a fabricated escalation in territory controlled by separatists.
The latest: Russian media reported that a vehicle belonging to a separatist security chief was targeted in an alleged car bombing, but that no one was harmed.
- Denis Pushilin, the head of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), told Russian media that the situation was “unfortunately” moving toward “major war.”
- A State Department spokesperson called the explosion and evacuation “further attempts to obscure through lies and disinformation that Russia is the aggressor in this conflict.”
- Ukraine’s Defense Intelligence Agency accused Russia’s security services of placing mines near unspecified “infrastructure facilities” in Donetsk in an attempt to fabricate “terrorist attacks” that would be blamed on Ukraine.