Russia Begins Preparing for Refugees From Donbass

With a Kiev regime offensive against the breakaway provinces apparently beginning, Russia has begun to prepare for an influx of refugees from Donbass across the border into Russia.

by Joe Lauria, published on Consortium News, February 18, 2022

The leaders of the breakaway Lugansk and Donetsk provinces in eastern Ukraine have called on their citizens to flee to Russia ahead of what they say is an impending, breakthrough offensive by the Kiev regime.

“I instruct the leaders of the territories, law enforcement agencies and emergency services to ensure an organized evacuation of social objects and to help the population get to border checkpoints,”

said Leonid Pasechnik, head of the declared Lugansk People’s Republic, on Friday.

Donetsk People’s Republic head Denis Pushilin said Ukrainian forces, armed by NATO, “are now prepositioned for combat and ready to take Donbass by force.” He said: “That is why starting today, February 18, a mass evacuation of people to the Russian Federation has been organized,” he in a statement. Women, children and the elderly would be given priority in the evacuation, he said.

Russia has begun to prepare for an influx of refugees. The RIA Kremlin pool reporter tweeted:

“Putin reacted to the situation in Donbass. Acting head of the Ministry of Emergency Situations urgently flies to the Rostov region. On behalf of the President, he will create conditions for the accommodation of refugees.

Everyone arriving in the Rostov region from the Donbass will be given 10,000 rubles each.”

Pasechnik said civilians in Lugansk should flee to Russia “as soon as possible,” where he said Russian authorities are prepared to “ensure organized reception and to provide accommodation on its territory.” Pushilin also said Russian authorities in neighboring Rostov were preparing for an influx of refugees.

Paechnik declared that Kiev’s military was on the brink of attacking the province. He said:

“Contrary to common sense and international agreements, the adversary continues to concentrate manpower and heavy equipment along the entire line of contact. By this moment, an impressive strike force has been formed by the adversary. According to the intelligence data, the Ukrainian aggressor plans to carry out not only provocations on the line of contact, but a breakthrough deep into our republic’s territory.”

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba denied an attack on Donbass is planned. “We categorically refute Russian disinformation reports on Ukraine’s alleged offensive operations,” Kuleba tweeted on Friday.

The West appears prepared to interpret an evacuation of civilians as part of a ruse to give Russia a pretext to invade Donbass to protect citizens who are majority ethnic Russian, many with Russian passports. One Western Russia expert tweeted:

Monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) have reported a surge of explosions in the area, including more than 500 on Thursday.

A U.S. State Department official anonymously told The New York Times on Friday that announcements of evacuations were “further attempts to obscure through lies and disinformation that Russia is the aggressor in this conflict.”

The presence of Ukrainian forces at the line of confrontation is ignored by U.S. officials and its media, which publishes maps that only show the location of Russian forces on Russian territory.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Vershinin told the U.N. Security Council on Thursday 122,000 Ukrainian military forces were lined up at the front with Donbass with the possible intention of launching an offensive against the two breakaway provinces there.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told the same meeting that Russia was planning provocations to justify an invasion, but a U.S.-backed Ukrainian offensive into the provinces could be a trap to draw Russian regular units over the border, given the U.S. the invasion it is screaming about.

One way out for Russia would be to evacuate people and leave behind bolstered militias to try to defend the territory without an intervention by Russia to save civilians.

*Featured Image: Denis Pushilin, President of Donetsk Republic, announces evacuation of civilians to Russia.

Joe Lauria is editor-in-chief of Consortium News and a former U.N. correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, and numerous other newspapers. He was an investigative reporter for the Sunday Times of London and began his professional work as a 19-year old stringer for The New York Times.  He can be reached atand followed on Twitter @unjoe

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