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Pro-Russian rebels blame Ukraine of shelling as Russian tanks withdraw

An interior view shows a kindergarten, which according to Ukraine's military officials was damaged by shelling, in Stanytsia Luhanska, in the Luhansk region, Ukraine, February 17, 2022. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

In contrast to Western worries of a Russian invasion, pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine accused government forces of shelling a village on Friday, while Russian media reported that more infantry and tank units were returning to their bases.

The news: According to the Interfax news agency, pro-Russian separatists who have been at odds with Ukraine for years have come under mortar and artillery fire from Ukrainian forces for the second day in a row.

  • After artillery and mortar attacks on Thursday, Kyiv and the rebels blamed each other for the rising tensions, raising fears that Russia, which has massed more than 100,000 troops along Ukraine’s borders, might become involved.
  • The Kremlin said on Thursday that the flare-up in Ukraine was “very concerning” and that it was closely monitoring the situation. The US claimed that Russia was looking for an excuse to go to war.
  • The war between Kyiv and pro-Russian rebels has been going on for eight years, and a truce between them is regularly broken, but the severity of the violence has grown noticeably this week.
  • Russia is developing a reason to justify a possible war on Ukraine, according to US President Joe Biden, whose ambition to one day join the NATO military alliance has infuriated Moscow.
An interior view shows a kindergarten, which according to Ukraine’s military officials was damaged by shelling, in Stanytsia Luhanska, in the Luhansk region, Ukraine, February 17, 2022. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
A local resident stands by a hole on the wall inside of a kindergarten classroom, which, according to Ukraine’s military officials, was damaged by shelling, in Stanytsia Luhanska, in the Luhansk region, Ukraine, February 17, 2022. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

What’s going on: Russia has massed troops, tanks, and heavy weapons on Ukraine’s borders in Europe’s largest security crisis in decades, demanding assurances that Kyiv will never join NATO, something the Ukrainian government has refused to do.

  • Despite this, Russia claims it has no plans to invade Ukraine and accuses the West of being hysterical over its military build-up, claiming that some of its troops have returned to their posts.
  • After completing manoeuvres in Crimea, numerous Russian mechanised infantry battalions returned to their barracks in Dagestan and Chechnya, according to Interfax news agency.
  • The ministry also told Interfax that a train carrying tanks had left an unidentified location to return to its base in the Nizhny Novgorod area. A similar claim of troops returning to their base was published by the TASS news agency.
  • But, according to Western authorities, Russia is still capable of launching an invasion at any time.
Service members of the Ukrainian Police forces are seen at an airfield near Stanytsia Luhanska, in the Luhansk region, Ukraine, February 17, 2022. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
Service members of the Ukrainian armed forces talks with a local resident outside of a kindergarten, which, according to Ukraine’s military officials, was damaged by shelling, in Stanytsia Luhanska, in the Luhansk region, Ukraine, February 17, 2022. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

What’s next: Biden will convene a conference call with the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Romania, the United Kingdom, the European Union, and NATO on Friday.

  • At the Munich Security Conference, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will meet with colleagues. He will also meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov late next week to discuss the problem, according to the State Department.

Moscow’s “unprovoked” decision to dismiss US Deputy Chief of Mission Bart Gorman has prompted a response from Washington. Russian diplomats who have been in the US for more than three years must go, but Moscow is offering US diplomats less time, according to a State Department spokesperson.

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