Donetsk announces mass evacuation, cites threat of Ukraine invasion
DPR President Denis Pushilin announces that his country has started withdrawing its citizens to Russia, prioritizing women, children, and elders, in fear of a Ukrainian invasion.
Denis Pushilin, the head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic (DPR), said Friday a mass evacuation of the population to Russia has been organized over the threat of Ukrainian invasion.
"When the enemy shells the settlements of the republic, the life and health of our citizens may be endangered," he said, explaining that as of February 18, the authorities organized a mass centralized evacuation of their population to Russia.
"First of all, women, children, and the elderly would be evacuated," Pushilin said in a video address.
He also revealed that facilities to house the population were ready in Russia's Rostov region, "as agreed with Russian authorities."
"The evacuees will be provided with everything they need. All conditions have been created at the checkpoints for a quick transition," Pushilin added.
The Ukrainian armed forces are ready for the forceful capture of Donbas, Pushilin also disclosed, while saying the "enemy's armed forces are in combat formations and are ready to seize Donbas by force."
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will soon order the military to launch an offensive in Donbas, to implement a plan to invade the territory of the self-proclaimed DPR and LPR, Pushilin said.
An explosion was heard next to the government headquarters in Donetsk, Al Mayadeen correspondent reported after news agencies reported that a huge explosion was heard in Donetsk's city center.
Our correspondent had also reported that Ukrainian shelling had begun on Donetsk, and the authorities sounded the air raid sirens.
What does the Pentagon have to say?
The Pentagon declined to comment on reports about civilians evacuating from Donbas to Russia in light of soaring regional tensions.
"Thank you for the note. You should reach out to the Ukrainian government about this," the Pentagon told Sputnik in a statement.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said he was unaware of the evacuation of people from Donbas to Russia.
The situation in Donbas has been going downhill for the past while as tensions spiral between Russia and Ukraine, with the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Lugansk and Kyiv accusing each other of violating the ceasefire.
Kyiv has been amassing soldiers and heavy military equipment on the contact line with Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republics, which pushed Russia to hold Ukraine accountable for any repercussions of their troop buildup, describing the situation as "very alarming".
The self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic had reported observing some 120,000 Ukrainian troops near the line of contact in Donbas, eastern Ukraine.
The Russian State Duma voted in favor of a draft resolution recognizing the Lugansk and Donetsk republics and the independence of Donbas.
Al Mayadeen's correspondent said the State Duma's decision to recognize the republics of Donetsk and Luhansk will be signed immediately and referred to President Putin for consideration.
Before the vote, Kyiv announced that it would consider Moscow's recognition of the Donetsk and Luhansk republics as Russia's de facto and legal withdrawal from the Minsk Agreements with all the consequences that it entails.