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NATO ‘saw’ Russian false flag attempts in Ukraine, Stoltenberg says – Reuters

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg noted On Thursday, the Western alliance “saw attempts” by Russia to mount a false flag operation in Ukraine, amid reports of shelling in the east of the country.

“We fear that Russia is trying to stage a pretext for an armed attack on Ukraine,” Stoltenberg told a news conference. There is “still no clarity, no certainty about Russia’s intentions”, he added.

Stoltenberg’s warning came amid reports of an upsurge in violence in Ukraine’s Donbass region, where Kiev has been fighting Russian-backed separatists for years.

Western officials have warned that Moscow could stage attacks in the disputed area to justify a wider invasion. Russia currently has more than 100,000 troops encircling Ukraine and is asking Western allies to withdraw from Eastern Europe – a request Western leaders have mostly rejected.

On Thursday, Ukraine and Russia accused each other of carrying out bombings in the Donbass. According to the media, shells hit a school building and injured two civilians.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson directly called the bombing of the school “a false flag operation designed to discredit Ukrainians, designed to create a pretext, a false provocation for Russian action”. Other Western leaders have not gone so far.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy noted the attack was “a big provocation”, blaming it on Russian-backed separatists in the region.

In Russia, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the situation was “very, very dangerous” and that “every moment runs the risk” of leading to an “outbreak of war”.

And in Brussels, top EU diplomat Josep Borrell said NATO allies had noticed the blossoming skirmishes along the border and were “very worried”, pointing in particular to how Moscow was framing the situation.

“We noticed a lot of misinformation from Russia to create an atmosphere of alleged attacks against the Russian people in this part of Ukraine,” he added.

Stoltenberg also said that NATO had detected the presence of Russian intelligence officers in the Donbass region and that he had discussed ways to deal with the ongoing crisis, including sending more alliance troops. in southeastern member countries such as Romania.

Russia has dismissed claims that it is attacking Ukraine as Western “hysteria”.

Cristina Gallardo contributed reporting.

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