The leaders of the Russian-occupied enclaves in eastern Ukraine – the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk “People’s Republics” (DPR and LPR) – declared on Saturday, Feb. 19, general mobilizations in their respective regions, AFP reports.

The announcements came after observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe reported a significant rise in attacks on the frontline in eastern Ukraine, controlled by Russian proxies.

Ukraine’s armed forces accused the Russian-backed forces on Saturday of launching a huge new wave of attacks that have intensified fears of a Russian invasion of its western neighbor.

The joint military command for east Ukraine reported 66 exchanges of fire by 7:00 am (0400 GMT), a high number compared to recent stages of the conflict.

Denis Pushilin, the leader of the so-called DPR, said in a video statement that the situation had become “critical” and that his region was determined to prevent attacks he claimed were planned by Ukraine.


“We will protect Donbas and all Russian people,” Pushilin added.

On Feb. 18 he had announced the evacuation of the civilian population to Russia.

The leader of the LPR, Leonid Pasechnik, also issued a general mobilization, fueling fears of a major escalation in fighting.

Kyiv has repeatedly denied any plans to regain control of the Russian-occupied areas using force, including the Crimean peninsula, which was annexed by Moscow in 2014.

On Feb. 18 U.S. President Joe Biden warned that a Russian attack on Ukraine could be expected in the coming days.

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