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Ukraine declares state of emergency

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Ukraine has declared a state of emergency and told its citizens in Russia to flee while Russia has begun evacuating its Kyiv embassy in the latest ominous signs for Ukrainians who fear an all-out Russian military onslaught.

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Shelling intensified at the line of contact in eastern Ukraine, where Russian President Vladimir Putin recognised the independence of two rebel regions this week and has ordered the deployment of Russian troops as “peacekeepers”.

But there was still no clear indication of whether he plans to follow that up with a massed assault on Ukraine involving the tens of thousands of troops he has gathered near his neighbour’s borders.

The uncertainty and a mostly incremental first volley of sanctions on Russian interests by the US and its allies have roiled financial markets.

“Predicting what might be the next step of Russia, the separatists or the personal decisions of the Russian president – I cannot say,” Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said.

The 30-day state of emergency could restrict the freedom of movement of conscripted reservists, impose curbs on the media and lead to personal document checks, according to a draft text that needs to be approved by parliament.

The restrictions would come into force from Thursday.

The Ukrainian government has also announced compulsory military service for all men of fighting age.

Ukrainian government and state websites, which have experienced outages in recent weeks blamed by Kyiv officials on cyberattacks, were again offline on Wednesday.

Ukraine’s parliament, cabinet and foreign ministry websites were affected.

Russia denies planning an invasion and has described warnings as anti-Russian hysteria, although it has taken no steps to withdraw the troops deployed along Ukraine’s frontiers.

On Wednesday, it took down flags from its embassy in Kyiv, having ordered its diplomats to leave for safety reasons.

– AAP and Reuters

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