Ilya TsukanovAll materialsWrite to the authorThe leaders of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics announced the start of mass evacuations of their territories to Russia on Friday amid an escalation of Ukrainian shelling and invasion fears. The republics have reported dozens of violations of the Minsk ceasefire by Kiev in recent days using artillery and anti-tank weapons.A powerful explosion rocked central Donetsk on Friday evening, a Sputnik correspondent has reported. The explosion is said to have occurred outside the building housing the republic’s government.A People’s Militia spokesman said a vehicle was blown up in a parking lot near the building at about 7 pm local time, with the blast wave from the explosion powerful enough to have been heard throughout the city.
The vehicle involved was an olive UAZ jeep. Media reports suggest that it may have belonged to People’s Militia chief Denis Sinenkov. The commander is not thought to have been harmed in the incident. This information is unconfirmed.Emergency services have been deployed to the area and are said to be checking another vehicle for a possible second car bomb.Authorities urged the public to “remain calm, stay vigilant and to reduce travel around the city as much as possible.”
Sputnik’s correspondent indicated that surrounding buildings do not appear to have been damaged in the blast.
No information regarding possible casualties has been made available.
Donetsk People's Republic head Denis Pushilin called the car bombing "a diversion" and a sign of preparations by Kiev to launch a military offensive into the Donbass. He also indicated that every piece of critical infrastructure in the DPR is under guard and that the city is prepared for possible acts of terror.
The bombing followed an announcement by Pushilin and Lugansk People’s Republic chief Leonid Pasechnik earlier in the day that local authorities are organising an evacuation of civilians from the regions to Russia due to the threat of military aggression by Kiev. Pushilin told reporters that he has information that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will order the start of an assault on the DPR and LNR in the near future.Kremlin Spokesman Dmitri Peskov told reporters that he was not informed about what was going on in the Donbass and said he did not know whether the evacuations were agreed with anyone. On Friday evening, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the government to provide 10,000 rubles (about $130 US) in emergency assistance to evacuees coming to Rostov. Regional authorities have created an operational headquarters to handle evacuees and provide them with accommodation, food, and medical care. Pushilin said hundreds of thousands of people, mostly women and children, may be evacuated, with men staying behind to fight.Live Updates: DPR Ready for Contact Group Meeting With Kiev If There Are Concrete Proposals18 February, 09:00 GMTUkraine’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement on Friday night accusing Russia of “launching a massive disinformation campaign” and calling on the international community to “immediately condemn the provocations of the Russian Federation and its occupation administrations in the Donbass.”Earlier in the day, Putin urged Kiev to immediately sit down at the negotiating table with Donbass leaders and hammer out peace, and blasted Ukraine’s officials for failing to observe the Minsk Agreements aimed at bringing the nearly eight-year-old conflict to an end. Also Friday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow was “very alarmed” by the reports of “a sharp increase in shelling” and “the use of weapons prohibited by the Minsk Agreements” in the Donbass.