The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

West braces for false-flag operations by Kremlin as fighting in eastern Ukraine escalates

Ukrainian soldiers take shelter while pinned down by heavy shelling in a town that lies on the restive border of Ukraine and the area controlled by Russian-backed separatists. (Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)

The threat of renewed war in Ukraine escalated Saturday as shelling and military preparations by Russian-backed separatists picked up in the country’s contested east.

At a major security conference in Munich, Vice President Harris warned of far-reaching sanctions against Russia and its allies in the event of an invasion. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, meanwhile, accused world leaders of appeasing Russia and urged them to take stronger action to support his country.

The rush to find a diplomatic solution came after President Biden said Friday that his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, has “made the decision” to strike Ukraine, warning of Kremlin-orchestrated false-flag operations in the coming days as pretexts for an attack. On Saturday night, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden would meet with the National Security Council on Sunday to discuss Ukraine.

Here’s what to know

  • Belarusian military officials said Russian troops deployed to the country for joint drills may stay there past the official end of the exercise Sunday. Their presence has increased fears about the Russian military surrounding Ukraine from a number of strategic positions.
  • U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Saturday said Russian forces have advanced essentially every capability needed to invade Ukraine, but he said there are pathways to avoid a bloody conflict. Meanwhile, artillery fire, including from mortars and grenades, pounded a border town in Ukraine’s east.
  • President Vladimir Putin oversaw a major military exercise Saturday of Russia’s nuclear forces, involving the launch of hypersonic missiles. The exercises are taking place as the United States asserts that Russia probably has massed as many as 190,000 troops in and around Ukraine, or nearly double the 100,000 estimated in late January.
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Here's what to know:

Belarusian military officials said Russian troops deployed to the country for joint drills may stay there past the official end of the exercise Sunday. Their presence has increased fears about the Russian military surrounding Ukraine from a number of strategic positions.
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Saturday said Russian forces have advanced essentially every capability needed to invade Ukraine, but he said there are pathways to avoid a bloody conflict. Meanwhile, artillery fire, including from mortars and grenades, pounded a border town in Ukraine’s east.
President Vladimir Putin oversaw a major military exercise Saturday of Russia’s nuclear forces, involving the launch of hypersonic missiles. The exercises are taking place as the United States asserts that Russia probably has massed as many as 190,000 troops in and around Ukraine, or nearly double the 100,000 estimated in late January.

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War in Ukraine: What you need to know

The latest: Russia claimed to have seized control of Soledar, a heavily contested salt-mining town in eastern Ukraine where fighting has raged recently, but a Ukrainian military official maintained that the battle was not yet over. The U.S. and Germany are sending tanks to Ukraine.

Russia’s Gamble: The Post examined the road to war in Ukraine, and Western efforts to unite to thwart the Kremlin’s plans, through extensive interviews with more than three dozen senior U.S., Ukrainian, European and NATO officials.

Photos: Washington Post photographers have been on the ground from the beginning of the war — here’s some of their most powerful work.

How you can help: Here are ways those in the U.S. can support the Ukrainian people as well as what people around the world have been donating.

Read our full coverage of the Russia-Ukraine war. Are you on Telegram? Subscribe to our channel for updates and exclusive video.

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