‘All signs suggest’ Russia plans ‘full-fledged attack on Ukraine’, says NATO

Weeks of military build up in the region has caused a diplomatic crisis (Picture: Getty/EPA)

All signs are pointing towards a ‘full-fledged’ attack on Ukraine by Russia, the head of NATO has warned.

It follows a spike of violence in the region, with Ukrainian military officials having to shelter from shells fired by pro-Moscow separatists in the east of the country.

An explosion last night at a gas pipeline near Luhansk and a car bomb in Donetsk, both rebel held cities, were blamed by the Kremlin as attacks on Russian-loyalists.

But Ukraine and the West fears these explosions could have been staged as part of a ‘false flag’ operation to justify an attack.

The signals coming out of Russia suggest that Moscow is ready for a ‘full-fledged attack’ on Ukraine, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said today, echoing US warnings.

‘Every indication indicates that Russia is planning a full-fledged attack against Ukraine,’ he told German broadcaster ARD on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference. He added: ‘We all agree that the risk of an attack is very high.’

This evening multiple loud explosions were heard in Donetsk, but the exact nature of the blasts is not yet clear.

BREST REGION, BELARUS - FEBRUARY 19, 2022: A mixed air striking group performs a bomb strike during the Allied Resolve 2022 joint military drills held by Belarusian and Russian troops at the Obuz-Lesnovsky training ground.  The military exercise is being held from February 10 to 20 as part of the second phase of testing response forces of the Union State of Russia and Belarus.  Peter Kovalev/TASS (Photo by Peter Kovalev\\TASS via Getty Images)

An air strike is carried out as part of joint Russian-Belarusian military drills that have been causing alarm in the region (Picture: TASS)

A Ukrainian soldier looks at a hole from a shell fired by pro-Russian separatists in the village of Novoluhanske, Luhansk region, Ukraine, Saturday, Feb.  19, 2022. Separatist leaders in eastern Ukraine have ordered a full military mobilization amid growing fears in the West that Russia is planning to invade the neighboring country.  The announcement on Saturday came amid a spike in violence along the line of contact between Ukrainian forces and the pro-Russia rebels in recent days.  (AP Photo/Oleksandr Ratushniak)

A Ukrainian soldier looks at a hole from a shell fired by pro-Russian separatists (Picture: AP)

epa09771315 Russian President Vladimir Putin opens the exercises of the Russian strategic deterrence forces with launches of the ballistic missiles from the situation center in the Moscow Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, 19 February 2022. The joint exercises of the military forces 'Union Courage-2022' of Russia and Belarus are held from February 10 to 20. As specified in the Russian Ministry of Defense, the purpose of these exercises is to work out the tasks of 'stopping and repelling external aggression' during a defensive operation, as well as 'countering terrorism and protecting the interests of the Union State'.  In Belarus, the holding of joint exercises was called a response to the 'continuing militarization' of European countries.  President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko allowed the recognition of the independence of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics (DPR and LPR) by Minsk.  EPA/ALEKSEY NIKOLSKYI/ SPUTNIK/ KREMLIN POOL

Vladimir Putin has denied plans to invade Ukraine, but has demanded legal guarantees it is never allowed to join NATO (Picture: EPA)

Today Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called for Russian President Vladimir Putin to meet him and seek resolution to the crisis.

‘I don’t know what the president of the Russian Federation wants, so I am proposing a meeting,’ he said at the Munich Security Conference.

‘Ukraine will continue to follow only the diplomatic path for the sake of a peaceful settlement.’

There was no immediate response from the Kremlin. Russia has continually denied plans to attack its neighbour, despite amassing up to 190,000 troops on its border.

President Vladimir Putin has demanded legal guarantees that his neighbor is never allowed to join NATO.

The Russian leader feels the defensive alliance has expanded far too eastwards and poses a threat to Moscow.

He worries that if Ukraine became a member, it would have the military power to take back Crimea, which was annexed in 2014.

Putin has insisted that troops are slowly withdrawing now their exercises have finished, but both Western leaders said they have seen ‘no evidence’ of this.

After weeks of holding out, yesterday it emerged the UK’s ambassador to Ukraine was relocating from Kiev to the western city of Liviv amid fears of an imminent attack.

This is a breaking news story – more to follow.

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