Gas company comments on blast amid escalation in eastern Ukraine

An explosion in the self-proclaimed Lugansk People’s Republic was reported around midnight

Officials in the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics (DPR and LPR) in eastern Ukraine reported massive shelling and explosions on Friday and early Saturday morning.

Tatyana Bogorodko, the director of LPR gas company Luganskgaz, confirmed that two blasts damaged a pipeline. “The cause of both explosions is a diversion,” she said.

DPR military spokesman Eduard Basurin told reporters that roughly 200 shells were fired by Kiev on Friday, while the breakaway region’s forces prevented three diversions. He added that the shelling occurred in many places across the frontline separating DPR forces from the Ukrainian Army.

DPR officials said that a pumping station was damaged by mortar shells, while RIA Novosti reported that artillery fire from the Ukrainian side destroyed a railway connecting Donetsk with Debaltsevo.

Fearing further escalation, the authorities in Donetsk and Lugansk began the evacuation of civilians to Russia on Friday. Both republics declared mobilization on Saturday.

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A soldier of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic on the frontline in eastern Ukraine, February 15, 2022. © Sergey Averin/Sputnik
Breakaway Ukrainian regions order mobilization

The Ukrainian military said the “Russian occupation forces” – a term they use to describe the DPR and LPR – violated the ceasefire 66 times on Friday, shelling multiple places along the frontline.

Alexey Danilov, the secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, denied that Kiev is planning a full-blown assault on the breakaway regions. “There are no orders to liberate our territories by force,” Danilov told reporters at a press conference on Friday, adding that the move would result in “major civilian casualties.”

“That’s why such an order can’t be issued in our country,” he said.

Reports of cross-border fire come amid continuing tensions between Russia and NATO regarding Ukraine. US President Joe Biden said on Friday night that Moscow was “planning to and intend to attack Ukraine in the coming week – in the coming days.”

Russia has repeatedly denied plans to attack its neighbor and accused the West of stirring up tensions.

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