‘Invasion starts today’ Putin poised to exploit Zelenskiy’s Germany trip to trigger attack

Ukraine: Civil defence sirens are going off in Donetsk

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The attack is most likely to start with an air and missile strike targeting much of the country “to decapitate the government and degrade the Ukrainian military.” The prediction comes as Ukraine’s joint forces command reported intense shelling of Ukrainian civilians by Russian-backed separatists on Saturday morning. The Russian President shows no sign of deescalating tensions with his western neighbour.

US defence officials estimate that Russia has now amassed between 169,000-190,000 troops in and near Ukraine.

Furthermore, Western officials have said that Russian soldiers have moved to jumping-off positions for an invasion over the past 24 hours.

And in signs that Moscow’s strongman is upping the ante even more, it is reported that he will oversee Russian nuclear drills today.

Analysts from the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) believe this Saturday represents an optimal date for an attack for a number of reasons.

Firstly, the Ukraine President, Volodymr Zelenskiy, will be out of the country as he flies to Munich for the Security Conference.

His absence will “degrade his ability to coordinate a response to any Russian attack and create more propitious circumstances for a Russian-sponsored attempt at a coup d’etat.”

The security experts also point out that Russian forces could prevent Mr Zelenskiy from returning to Kyiv.

Secondly, the nuclear drills planned for today are “clearly intended to deter any Western response to an attack.”

The analysts argue that launching an attack during the drills would “take maximal advantage of their deterrent effect.”

Thirdly, Mr Putin will observe the exercises from an unspecified “situational centre” in Moscow.

This is most likely to be the Russian Ministry of Defence’s National Defence Control Centre (NDCC).

Such a location would allow the Russian strongman to “oversee conventional military operations as well.”

The ISW had previously forecast that Mr Putin would conduct a limited invasion in unoccupied southeastern Ukraine.

However, the analysts now believe that “a much larger-scale Russian invasion is very possible.”

The Kremlin and its eastern Ukrainian proxies appear to have stepped up their efforts to manufacture an excuse for military intervention by Russian forces.

On Friday, leaders of Donetsk and Luhansk announced a mass evacuation of citizens to Russia.

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Mr Putin swiftly sent a top official to the border area and promised those arriving in Russia a payment of 10,000 roubles (£95).

Later the pro-Russian separatists said a car had been blown up near their government building in the centre of Donetsk.

Kyiv angrily denied it was planning to attack Donestk and Luhansk or was behind the bombing.

In a forthright statement, Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said: “Allegations that the Ukrainian government intends to launch an offensive operation in the temporarily occupied territories of Donetsk and Luhansk regions are divorced from reality.

“Ukraine is also not conducting or planning any sabotage acts in Donbas.”

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