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The Russian army almost ready | Putin called “for help”, Zelensky addresses the Russian people

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(Moscow) The Kremlin announced on the night of Wednesday to Thursday that it had received a call for help from pro-Russian separatists to “push back” the Ukrainian army, a further sign of a possible Russian military intervention in Ukraine despite sanctions and a international outcry.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in a personal and emotional speech in Russian, called on civil society in Russia to put pressure on its leaders to prevent a “great war in Europe” which could start “any day the other “.

“Do the Russians want war? I would love to know the answer to this question. And this answer depends on you, citizens of the Russian Federation,” he said, accusing Moscow of having deployed 200,000 men to attack his country and revealing that he had tried to speak, without success, to Vladimir Putin.

During the day, Ukraine began mobilizing around 40,000 of its reservists, voted a state of emergency and announced that it was the target of a new “massive” cyberattack targeting official websites.

The Russian president is ready for an invasion with “nearly 100%” of the necessary forces in position, according to a senior American official.

Emergency state

“Ukraine needs clear and concrete security guarantees immediately,” Zelensky had previously said. It is “the future of European security” that is at stake in Ukraine, he added.


PHOTO VIACHESLAV RATYNSKYI, REUTERS

Ukraine’s parliament overwhelmingly approved Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s decree imposing the exceptional measure for 30 days, starting Thursday.

Overnight, the Kremlin announced that the leaders of the self-proclaimed pro-Russian separatist “republics” in eastern Ukraine had asked for Vladimir Putin’s “help” to “repel Ukrainian aggression”.

Russian state news agency Tass published the letters dated February 22, the day Russian parliamentarians authorized the Kremlin to deploy the army to Ukraine.

On Wednesday, Russia began evacuating its diplomatic personnel from Ukraine, and the Russian flag no longer flies over its embassy in Kiev.

The Russian president had hammered just before that Russian interests were “non-negotiable”. On Monday, in an angry speech, he questioned the very legitimacy of Ukraine’s existence, accusing it of being a tool of NATO’s aggressive anti-Russian policy and of orchestrating a “genocide” of Russians in Ukraine.


PHOTO ASSOCIATED PRESS

Russian armored vehicles recently arrived by train near the Russian-Ukrainian border, in the Rostov-on-Don region, Russia, Wednesday, February 23, 2022.

At the international level, the UN Security Council was to hold an emergency meeting on Wednesday evening, as were the leaders of the 27 countries of the European Union on Thursday in Brussels.

The world is “at a moment of peril,” warned UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres. And France in turn called on its nationals to “leave without delay” Ukraine.

Many fear that the crisis could lead to the most serious conflict in Europe since 1945. A Russian intervention could result in “up to five million additional people displaced”, further warned the American ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas. -Greenfield.

Penalties

Washington and its Western allies have taken early sanctions in response to the recognition of Moscow-backed separatists that Kiev has been fighting for eight years, a conflict that has claimed more than 14,000 lives to date.

The European Union announced sanctions on Wednesday evening against 23 “high-profile” Russian figures, including the defense minister, military leaders and the boss of Russia Today television, as well as three banks and 351 members of the Duma for their involvement in the recognition of the separatist regions of Ukraine.

US President Joe Biden has meanwhile announced sanctions against the company responsible for operating the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, which links Russia to Germany, and which Berlin had already put on hold.

Moscow has promised a “strong” and “painful” response to the Americans.

The international sanctions announced so far remain modest compared to those promised in the event of an invasion, and Moscow can boast of having accumulated nearly $640 billion in foreign exchange reserves and $183 billion in a sovereign wealth fund to face.

Vladimir Putin, who since the beginning of the crisis in December sets the tempo, on Monday recognized the independence of the pro-Russian separatist “republics” of Donetsk and Lugansk, then obtained the next day from the upper house of Parliament the green light for a deployment of Russian forces.

While these decisions lay the foundations for a major intervention on the ground, no significant troop movement has been reported.

In the Rostov region, about fifty kilometers from the border, Russian forces are present in large numbers: military trucks, rocket launchers or howitzers, according to AFP journalists.


PHOTO AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Russian military trucks parked on the side of a road in Russia’s southern Rostov region, which borders the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic, February 23, 2022.

On the front, the resumption of fighting between the army and separatists in recent days did not stop on Wednesday. The belligerents continue to regularly exchange artillery fire, accusing each other of it. A Ukrainian soldier was killed, the ninth since January.

Lugansk separatists also announced the death of a fighter on Wednesday. A civilian was also killed in shelling, according to the rebels.

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