An abandoned building in Shchastia, Luhansk Region, eastern Ukraine (Picture: Ukrinform/Alamy Stock Photo).
Ukraine

Ukrainian military officials come under shelling attack on front as invasion fears increase

It happened in war-torn eastern Ukraine, where the West fears a spike of violence might be used as a pretext for a Russian invasion.

An abandoned building in Shchastia, Luhansk Region, eastern Ukraine (Picture: Ukrinform/Alamy Stock Photo).

Top Ukrainian military officials came under a shelling attack during a tour of the front of the separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine.

The officials fled to a bomb shelter before leaving the area, according to a journalist from The Associated Press who was on the tour.

Earlier Saturday, separatist leaders in eastern Ukraine ordered a full military mobilisation, amid a spike of violence in the war-torn region and fears in the West that Russia might use it as a pretext for an invasion.

Ukraine and the two regions held by the Russia-backed rebels each accused the other of escalation.

Russia on Saturday said at least two shells fired from a government-held part of eastern Ukraine landed across the border.

Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba dismissed the claim as "a fake statement".

Ukraine's military said shelling killed a soldier early Saturday in the government-held part of the Donetsk region and that separatist forces were placing artillery in residential areas to try to provoke a response.

On Friday, the rebels began evacuating civilians to Russia with an announcement that appeared to be part of their and Moscow's efforts to paint Ukraine as the aggressor.

Denis Pushilin, head of the pro-Russian separatist government in the Donetsk region, released a statement on Saturday announcing a full troop mobilisation and urging reservists to show up at military enlistment offices.

A similar announcement quickly followed from Leonid Pasechnik, separatist leader in the Luhansk region.

Mr Pushilin cited an "immediate threat of aggression" from Ukrainian forces, accusations that Ukrainian officials had vehemently denied earlier.