Russia-Ukraine: State Department responds to reported explosion and evacuations : LIVE UPDATES

Biden will speak on the Russia-Ukraine situation at 4 p.m. ET

President Biden is expected to speak later this afternoon on the Russia-Ukraine standoff.

The State Department reacts to evacuations from Donbass and reports an explosion in Donetsk

A US State Department spokesman said on Friday that the reported evacuations in eastern Ukraine and the car bombing in the city of Donetsk “are further attempts to cover up with lies and disinformation that Russia is the aggressor in this conflict”.

“This type of false flag operation is exactly what Secretary [of State] Blinken emphasized in his remarks to the UN Security Council,” the spokesperson continued. “It is also cynical and cruel to use human beings as pawns to distract the world from the fact that the Russia is building up its forces in preparation for an attack. Russia is the sole instigator of these tensions and threatens the Ukrainian people. He has placed his troops on the borders of Ukraine and regularly abuses and violates the rights of the people of Donbass and Crimea.

A bomb attack hit a car on Friday outside the main government building in the major eastern city of Donetsk, according to an Associated Press reporter. The leader of the separatist forces, Denis Sinenkov, said the car was his, the Interfax news agency reported.

There have been no reports of casualties and no independent confirmation of the circumstances of the explosion. Uniformed men inspected the burnt-out car. Shards of glass littered the area.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Explosion reported in Donetsk, Ukraine

A large explosion occurred Friday in the center of Donetsk, Ukraine, near the seat of the separatist government, Russian media report.

The claims could not be independently verified.

Residents of eastern Ukraine being told by rebel leaders to evacuate to Russia: reports

Separatists in eastern Ukraine are issuing warnings to their residents on Friday to evacuate to Russia as shelling continues to be reported.

“In connection with the escalation of tension, the head of the LPR, Leonid Pasechnik, called on the inhabitants of the Republic to leave as soon as possible on the territory of the Russian Federation,” read a statement on the self-organizing site. proclaimed the Luhansk People’s Republic.

Denis Pushilin, the head of the Donetsk People’s Republic, also ordered an evacuation, according to media reports.

Asked about the alleged movements, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said he had no information about it.

Fox News’ Amy Kellogg contributed to this report.

Ukrainian government continues to downplay fears of invasion as shelling intensifies

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said on Friday that “we estimate the likelihood of a full-scale escalation to be low,” despite conflicting intelligence assessments from the White House and the Pentagon in recent days.

In Ukraine, government forces and pro-Russian rebels reported increased shelling for a second straight day on Friday, according to Reuters.

Elsewhere in Eastern Europe, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced on Friday the planned sale of 250 Abrams tanks to Poland, where the United States has deployed troops in anticipation of possible Russian aggression in Ukraine.

“This is the most modern version of the Abrams and will provide Poland with a very advanced tank capability,” Austin said. “It will also enhance our interoperability with the Polish Armed Forces, enhancing the credibility of our combined deterrence efforts and those of our other NATO allies.”

Fox News’ Lucas Tomlinson contributed to this report.

Blinken will meet his Russian counterpart in Europe next week

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov next week until Moscow does not invade Ukraine, the State Department said.

Blinken proposed the meeting “because we believe the only responsible way to resolve this crisis is through diplomacy and dialogue,” according to State Department spokesman Ned Price.

“The Russians have responded with proposed dates for the end of next week, which we accept, provided there is no more Russian invasion of Ukraine,” Price added. “If they invade in the next few days, it will clearly show that they were never serious about diplomacy.”

Russian threat to invade Ukraine still ‘very high’, Biden says

President Joe Biden warned Thursday that Russia could invade Ukraine within days, and violence has escalated into a long-running stalemate in eastern Ukraine that some say could spark a wider conflict.

Speaking at the White House, he said Washington saw no signs of a promised Russian withdrawal, and said the threat of invasion remained “very high” because Russia had moved more troops to the border with Ukraine instead of withdrawing them. –With AP

Blinken reveals how the US thinks Russia would invade Ukraine

At a terse meeting of the UN Security Council on Thursday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned that Russia’s continued hostility towards Ukraine was a “moment of peril” and threatened global stability.

Blinken went on to explain that while US intelligence does not yet know exactly how Russia will choose to launch its attack, the US anticipates a series of steps.

“Here is what the world can expect to see unfold, in fact, it is unfolding right now today as Russia embarks on the path to war,” he began. “First, Russia plans to fabricate a pretext for its attack – it could be a violent event that Russia will bring to Ukraine or an outrageous accusation that Russia will bring against the Ukrainian government.

“The Secretary described how Russian state-controlled media has already begun to broadcast falsified allegations, including stories of mass graves, to ‘lay the groundwork’ for justifying a Russian-induced attack.”

Second, in response to this fabricated provocation, the highest levels of the Russian government could theatrically call emergency meetings to deal with the so-called crisis,” he continued.

“Then the attack should begin. Russian missiles and bombs will fall on Ukraine, communications will be blocked, cyberattacks will shut down key institutions. After that, Russian tanks and soldiers will advance.” — Caitlyn McFall