Governor says Russia readying big attack in east Ukraine

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People from Donetsk and Lugansk regions make their way to temporary residences in Nizhny Novgorod on Saturday. (AP pic)

AFP

KYIV: Russian troops are preparing for a big attack in the Lugansk region of eastern Ukraine, the local governor Sergiy Gaiday said on Telegram yesterday, urging a mass evacuation.

“We see that equipment is coming from different directions, they are bringing manpower, they are bringing fuel,” Gaiday said in a video statement.

“We understand that they are preparing for a full-scale big breakthrough,” he added.

Gaiday urged residents to leave the region as soon as possible.

“Please don’t wait for your homes to be bombed,” he said in a separate video.

“Do not hesitate,” he added, specifying that 1,000 people had been evacuated yesterday.

A senior Pentagon official said Russia has removed about two-thirds of the troops it had around Kyiv – who were mostly sent back to Belarus with plans to redeploy elsewhere in Ukraine.

“The bombardments are becoming ever denser. Last night there was an attempt to break through at Rubizhne (near Lugansk). (But) our defenders repulsed and put several tanks out of action – there were dozens of (Russian soldiers’) corpses, Gaiday said.

“Yesterday, sadly, two volunteers were killed in a mine or mortar explosion,” he went on, adding “a church was bombed”.

The mayor of Borova, Oleksandr Tertyshnyy, whose town is midway between Lugansk and the main eastern city of Kharkiv, said local authorities “had to take a decision to evacuate the population … for citizens’ security. Those who can leave in their own vehicle are encouraged to do so,” he said on Facebook.

Oleksy Arestovitch, a Ukraine presidential adviser, added that “the enemy is in the process of regrouping its forces with the intention of pursuing the offensive … in the region of Mariupol and Kharkiv.

“The enemy will seek to encircle our troops … and finish off Mariupol” – already largely destroyed after weeks under siege.

“But we are all convinced they will not succeed in doing so,” he added.