Ukraine Crisis: Parliament approves state of emergency

Russian-backed separatist leader Denis Pushilin said Ukraine should withdraw from Donetsk.

Reservists take part in a tactical training and individual combat skills conducted by the Territorial Defense of the Capital in Kyiv, Ukraine, February 19, 2022. (photo credit: REUTERS/ANTONIO BRONIC)
Reservists take part in a tactical training and individual combat skills conducted by the Territorial Defense of the Capital in Kyiv, Ukraine, February 19, 2022.
(photo credit: REUTERS/ANTONIO BRONIC)

The Ukrainian parliament approved a declaration of a state of emergency in the entire Ukraine and told its citizens in Russia to flee, while Moscow began evacuating its Kyiv embassy in the latest ominous signs for Ukrainians who fear an all-out Russian military onslaught.

The Russian-backed separatist leader of a Ukrainian breakaway region said on Wednesday that Ukrainian government forces should withdraw from the territory that his self-proclaimed state lays claim to and take their weapons with them.

Satellite imagery taken on Wednesday showed a number of new deployments in western Russia, many of them within 10 miles of the border with Ukraine and less than 50 miles from the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, a private US company said.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Thursday he had demanded an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council regarding the latest appeal of pro-Russian separatists to Russia for military assistance.

TASS cited Denis Pushilin, head of the "Donetsk People's Republic" (DPR), as telling Russian state media that such a scenario would be the optimal one.

The separatists lay claim to a much larger swath of territory in Ukraine than they currently control.

Russian President Vladimir Putin's military is as ready as it can be to launch what the United States believes could be a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, with 80 percent of troops assembled around Ukraine in attack positions, a senior US official said on Wednesday.

"He is as ready as he can be. We've been saying any day now and it's certainly possible that today is that day," the US defense official said, without predicting an invasion would take place on Wednesday.

 Ukrainians residing in Japan hold placards and flags during a protest rally denouncing on Russia over its actions in Ukraine, near Russian embassy in Tokyo (credit: REUTERS/ISSEI KATO) Ukrainians residing in Japan hold placards and flags during a protest rally denouncing on Russia over its actions in Ukraine, near Russian embassy in Tokyo (credit: REUTERS/ISSEI KATO)

Shelling intensified at the line of contact in eastern Ukraine, where Russian President Vladimir Putin recognized the independence of two Moscow-backed rebel regions this week and has ordered the deployment of Russian troops as "peacekeepers."

But there was still no clear indication of whether he plans to follow that up with a massed assault on his neighbor by tens of thousands of troops gathered near Ukraine's borders.

Read more on the Ukraine-Russia War:

Several Ukrainian state websites, including the government and foreign ministry home pages, were inaccessible on Wednesday.

Ukraine's minister of digital transformation said that banks had also been hit by denial of service attacks.

Ukrainian authorities said this week they had seen online warnings that hackers were preparing to launch major attacks on government agencies, banks and the defense sector.

"No one will be able to sit out this crisis if President Putin decides that he can move forward," Kuleba said. "Active diplomacy, strong political messages, tough economic sanctions and strengthening Ukraine can still force Moscow to abandon aggressive plans."

The Biden administration is in touch with Ukrainian authorities over their cyber security needs, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Wednesday, in the wake of a fresh cyber attack against the country which the US government has not yet attributed.

Ukraine also appealed to the UN General Assembly on Wednesday to stop Russia's "aggressive plans," as UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned the 193-member body that an expanded conflict "could see a scale and severity of need unseen for many years."

Also on Wednesday, Ukraine started conscripting reservists aged 18-60 following a decree by President Volodymyr Zelensky, the armed forces said in a statement.

The maximum service period is one year.

Zelensky on Tuesday said he was introducing the conscription of reservists but ruled out a general mobilization after Russia announced it was moving troops into eastern Ukraine.

Russia has started evacuating diplomatic staff from all of its missions in Ukraine, TASS news agency reported on Wednesday, citing a representative of the Russian Embassy in Kyiv.

The embassy as well as the consulate general in Odessa were seen on Wednesday with Russian flags taken down.

"Several cars left the territory of the consulate in the morning," a member of the Ukrainian National Guard who was on duty near the Russian consulate in Odessa told Reuters.

Russia's foreign ministry announced an evacuation of diplomatic staff from Ukraine for what it called safety reasons on Tuesday, a day after President Vladimir Putin recognized the independence of two breakaway regions in Ukraine's east and ordered Russian troops "to keep the peace" there while massing military along Ukrainian borders.

Last week a video showing smoke rising from the Russian Embassy's chimney circulated online. An employee said that staff had burnt documents before departure, TASS quoted him as saying on Wednesday.

"This is an ordinary procedure. In cases like we have now there is a set of measures that should be taken for security reasons," the employee said, according to TASS.

Ukraine's Foreign Ministry requested President Volodymyr Zelensky to break off diplomatic ties with Russia in response to the recognition of the independence of separatist-held regions.

Zelenskiy on Thursday said Russia had approved an offensive against Ukraine and said Russian President Vladimir Putin had not replied to his invitation to hold talks.

Zelenskiy made the remarks in a 10-minute address posted on Telegram during which he spoke in both Ukrainian and Russian.

Ukraine's foreign minister Kuleba, tweeted on Wednesday that a night shift of the Titan chemicals plant in annexed Crimea had been evacuated from the facility.

He said it was a possible preparation for another staged provocation by Russia, which annexed Crimea in 2014.

French nationals who are currently in Ukraine must leave the country immediately, the French ministry of foreign affairs said late on Wednesday, citing the state of emergency declared by Ukraine earlier in the day.