Russian pretexts for active military involvement are taking shape as the conflict heats up in the Donbas and civilians in the separatist territory are ordered to evacuate to Russia. Russia formally responded to the U.S. diplomatic proposals by threatening "military-technical measures" should its demands not be met.
- A serious escalation of the conflict in eastern Ukraine began on 17 February, when ceasefire violations between the Ukrainian National Army and pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine skyrocketed. Across the Donetsk and Luhansk border regions, 591 violations were recorded—an increase of nearly four times compared to the day before. Preliminary reports from today indicate that the uptick in frequency and severity of the ceasefire violations is continuing.
- Civilians from both sides of the conflict in eastern Ukraine are being ordered to evacuate. Ukraine is evacuating its frontline cities closest to the Donbas and the Russian-backed DPR and LPR have ordered their civilians to evacuate to Russia with rumors that they have been offered payment and shelter.
- Over the last 48 hours, Russian troops and equipment have moved closer to the border with Ukraine. According to U.S. officials, Russia has increased its blood supplies near the border—a display of readiness for an offensive—and its overall posture has swelled to reach 169,000-190,000 troops.
- On 18 February, an explosion was reported in central separatist-controlled Donetsk, which the DPR alleges to be an assassination attempt on DPR militia leader Colonel Sinenkov.
- Russia also announced that it will hold nuclear exercises tomorrow, showcasing all elements of its nuclear triad.
Pro-separatist and Russian news agencies have increased their propaganda efforts over the last 48 hours in a possible sign that an escalation is planned. Examples include:
- Videos of the alleged assassination attempt via car bomb on Colonel Sinenkov
- Videos of an alleged failed attempt by Ukraine to destroy a chlorine gas facility
- Videos of evacuation efforts, including images from orphanages
- Photos of dead children (found to be from Syria, 2012)
- Meanwhile, the Kremlin and pro-Russian separatists have accused the Ukrainian National Army of preparing an offensive, and both President Putin and the Russian Ambassador to the U.S. have repeated the claim that Ukraine is committing "genocide" against ethnic Russians in the Donbas.
- Moscow formally responded to Washington's Security Proposals. There are few signs that Russia is willing to make any compromises or make any diplomatic progress without NATO submitting to its key demand that Ukraine is to be blocked from membership.
- On 17 February, Russia expelled U.S. Deputy Ambassador Bartle Gorman, the second most senior official at the U.S. embassy in Moscow. The U.S. said it would be forced to respond in kind.
- For now, Putin has declined to recognize the Luhansk and Donetsk separatist republics in Ukraine. Earlier this week, at a joint press conference with German Chancellor Olaf Sholz, President Putin stated that the Minsk agreements still had the potential to resolve conflict in the Donbas. Ukraine has stated previously that it would treat Russia’s recognition of eastern Ukraine as its withdrawal from the Minsk ceasefire agreement.
- On 16 February, the U.S. relaxed its COVID-19 entry restrictions for certain groups who are evacuating Ukraine. U.S. citizens, permanent residents, immigrant visa holders, and non-citizen nonimmigrants traveling with a U.S. citizen or permanent resident may enter the U.S. without a pre-departure COVID-19 test or proof of vaccine.
- Global Guardian recommends against non-essential travel to Ukraine.
- Expats should consider leaving Ukraine while commercial flights remain available.
- Those who remain in-country should prepare emergency supplies.
- Secure your assets and prepare your emergency evacuation plan.
Our team can respond immediately with the following capabilities:
- Bespoke intelligence reports and briefings
- Armed or unarmed security personnel
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- Emergency medical and tele-medical support
- Logistical support (food, water, generators, fuel)
- Evacuation by ground, air, or sea
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