Leaders of two breakaway territories in eastern Ukraine on Saturday signed “general mobilization” decrees that put them on war footing, raising fears that Russia could soon invade Ukraine.
The head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, a breakaway territory in eastern Ukraine, said in a Saturday video address that he had signed a decree mobilizing military reserves and urged all able-bodied men to take up arms.
“I appeal to all the men of the republic, who are able to hold weapons in their hands, to stand up for their families, children, wives, mothers,” Denis Pushilin said. “Together we will achieve victory, we will protect the Donbas and all Russian people.” (Donbas is a contested region of eastern Ukraine where Kyiv government forces have been locked in a years-long conflict with Moscow-backed militants.)
Leonid Pasechnik, leader of the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic, also signed a similar order, according to Russian state media. RIA Novosti said the order banned adult men under 55 years old from leaving the territory and allowed authorities to seize property for defense needs.
Pushlin’s order, which he said was meant to counter “Kyiv’s aggression,” was the latest sign that Russia was set to attack Ukraine. President Biden on Friday accused Russian state media of making “phony allegations” of a genocide in Donbas and pushing claims that Kyiv could be readying an offensive of its own to justify an attack on Ukraine.
The rebel leader on Friday urged civilians in Donetsk to leave the territory for Russia. Also on Friday, a car exploded outside a Donetsk government office, an act local officials characterized as sabotage. Kyiv has roundly denied that it is planning an offensive on Donetsk, and Biden said it “defies basic logic to believe the Ukrainians would choose this moment, with well over 150,000 troops arrayed on its borders, to escalate a year-long conflict.”