Separatists Order Civilians to Leave for Russia

Putin offers payments to evacuees
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 18, 2022 2:42 PM CST
Separatists Order Civilians to Leave for Russia
A woman looks out of the window of a balcony in Sievierodonetsk, in the Luhansk region, eastern Ukraine, on Friday.   (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

Women, children, and elderly people were ordered to evacuate to Russia on Friday by pro-Russian leaders in eastern Ukraine. The separatist leaders charged that Ukraine is preparing a military offensive, which the country denied, per Axios, saying it's the separatists who are increasing tensions with artillery shelling. "We categorically refute Russian disinformation reports on Ukraine's alleged offensive operations," the defense minister tweeted. Social media posts showed buses in the city of Donetsk lining up for evacuees, and air raid sirens could be heard on the files.

Russian President Vladimir Putin sent an official to the border and said each evacuee would be paid more than $100, per the Guardian. Ukraine and other nations, including the US, have warned that Russia might be stoking tensions to give it a pretext for an invasion. On Friday night, the Russian separatists reported that a car exploded close to their government building in Donetsk without causing any injuries. The car appeared in a video to have been in an empty parking lot, per the Guardian. Ukrainian and US officials said the explosion was staged, per CNN.

Russia has said Ukraine forces are killing civilians in Donbas, calling it a war crime. A US official said that's another false claim intended to provide a pretext for charging into Ukraine and make it appear that Russia isn't the aggressor. The head of the self-declared Donetsk People's Republic, who said he was organizing evacuations, told Russian media that the situation is moving toward "major war." The Luhansk People's Republic, another separatist state, said it also was launching evacuations to Russia. Residents of the area received texts saying: "Attention! Citizens! An emergency evacuation has been announced! Stay calm, do not give in to panic!" (More Russia-Ukraine war stories.)

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