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In an emotional address to the nation today, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy rejected Moscow’s claims that his country poses a threat to Russia and lamented that a Russian invasion would cost tens of thousands of lives.

Mr Zelensky said on the Ukrainian border “nearly 200,000 soldiers are stationed, (as are) thousands of combat vehicles,” news agency AFP reported.

This satellite image shows Russian military convoys about 20km north of the border with Ukraine. (Maxar Technologies) (CNN)

“The people of Ukraine and the government of Ukraine want peace,” he said in Russian, hours after declaring a nationwide state of emergency.

But if the nation comes under an attack, “we will fight back.”

Zelenskyy said he tried to call Putin, but the Kremlin remained silent.

“Today I initiated a telephone conversation with the President of the Russian Federation. Silence. Although there should be silence in the Donbas,” Mr Zelensky said.

New satellite imagery has shown a number of new deployments among Russian forces, especially in and around the Belgorod region, which is adjacent to the Ukrainian border.

Earlier, the Ukrainian parliament approved Mr Zelensky’s decree that imposes a nationwide state of emergency as pro-Russian separatists in the country’s east have formally appealed to Moscow for military support.

The decree allows Ukrainian authorities to impose restrictions on movement, block rallies and ban political parties and organisations “in the interests of national security and public order”.

Mr Zelensky has called up some military reservists as the threat of a Russian invasion grew. He acknowledged that his country faces huge odds without membership in a powerful security alliance like NATO.

Ukrainian military reservist Anton Lytvyn, 28, packs his military equipment at his house after he was called up to active duty. Ukraine has declared a state of emergency amid rising tensions. (Getty)

“We are self-defending ourselves with the support of our partners. But it’s Ukrainians who are dying,” he said.

Kyiv reported shelling on the frontline in eastern Ukraine, where Russia-backed rebels have held territory since 2014. The Ukrainian military said one of its soldiers was killed and six more were injured. Separatist officials reported several explosions on their territory overnight and three civilian deaths.

Ukraine’s forces are no match for Moscow’s military might, so Kyiv is counting on other countries to hit Russia hard — with sanctions.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Twitter that the West should target Russian President Vladimir Putin where it hurts without delay.

“Hit his economy and cronies. Hit more. Hit hard. Hit now,” Mr Kuleba wrote.

The Ukrainian Government has extended private gun owner rights as part of its emergency measures, enabling them to buy firearms from gun stores with less restrictions. (Getty)

Leaders of separatists appeal to Russia

The heads of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR), two separatist regions in Ukraine, recently recognised by Russia as independent, have formally asked Russian President Vladimir Putin for help repelling the aggression of Ukrainian Armed Forces, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told Russian state news agency RIA-Novosti.

“The president of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin received letters of appeal from the head of the Luhansk People’s Republic Leonid Pasechnik and the head of the Donetsk People’s Republic Denis Pushilin,” Mr Peskov said, according to RIA.

But the White House said the request by Ukrainian separatists for Russian military assistance in the face of supposed “aggression” by Ukraine’s government is an example of the “false flag” operations the West has consistently warned against.

The US and allies have alleged for weeks that Russia would try to create a pretext for an invasion of Ukraine through the use of such operations.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki says the Kremlin’s announcement on Wednesday that the separatists are seeking help “is an example” of such an operation.

Ms Psaki adds that “we’ll continue to call out what we see as false flag operations or efforts to spread misinformation about what the actual status is on the ground.”

Russian armoured vehicles are loaded onto railway platforms near the Russia-Ukraine border. (AP)

Russia ready to attack any time: Pentagon

Russia’s military buildup on Ukraine’s border is now “at a state of readiness where they could attack at any time,” Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said during a briefing.

Mr Kirby stressed that if Russian Mr Putin decides to fully invade Ukraine, it will be a “war of choice” and “it won’t be bloodless.”

“There will be suffering,” Mr Kirby added. “There will be sacrifice. And all of that must and should be laid at his feet. Because he’s doing this by choice.”

Mr Kirby said Russia has continued to make no indication that he’s willing to de-escalate the conflict, instead the Pentagon has seen “quite the opposite.”

‘Moment of peril’ for world

The UN’s Secretary General has warned, “our world is facing a moment of peril” after Russia began evacuating its embassy in Kyiv and Ukraine urged its citizens to leave Russia while declaring a state of emergency in the nation.

The region is braced for further confrontation after President Putin received authorisation to use military force outside his country and the West responded with sanctions.

Hopes for a diplomatic way out of a new, potentially devastating war in Europe appeared all but sunk as the US and key European allies accused Moscow on Tuesday of crossing a red line in rolling over Ukraine’s border into separatist regions — with some calling it an invasion.
A Ukrainian army officer looks at his phone in a local train in Kyiv, Ukraine.
A Ukrainian army officer looks at his phone in a local train in Kyiv, Ukraine. (AP)

“We meet in the face of the most serious global peace and security crisis in recent years, and certainly in my time as secretary general,” Antonio Guterres, said.

“Our world is facing a moment of peril. I truly hoped it would not come.

“The latest developments regarding Ukraine are a cause of great concern, and they include reports of increased ceasefire violations across the contact line and the real risk of further escalation on the ground.”

People sing the Ukrainian national anthem during a protest outside the Russian Embassy earlier this week.
People sing the Ukrainian national anthem during a protest outside the Russian Embassy earlier this week. (Getty)

Diplomats out

Russia began pulling personnel from its diplomatic posts in Ukraine, state news agency Tass reported, a day after the Foreign Ministry announced a plan to evacuate, citing threats.

By Wednesday afternoon, the Russian flag was no longer flying over the embassy in Kyiv, according to an Associated Press photographer.

Police surrounded the building.

After weeks of trying to project calm, Ukrainian authorities signalled increasing concern on Wednesday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, near the Kremlin Wall during the national celebrations of the 'Defender of the Fatherland Day' in Moscow, Russia.
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, near the Kremlin Wall during the national celebrations of the ‘Defender of the Fatherland Day’ in Moscow, Russia. (AP)

The Foreign Ministry advised against travel to Russia and recommended anyone there leave immediately, saying Moscow’s “aggression” could lead to a significant reduction in consular services.

Source: 9News

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