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Ukraine mobilises reserves

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Ukraine mobilised its military reserve yesterday and urged its citizens to leave Russian territory as Moscow sharpened its demands, increasing fears of all-out war.

Kremlin chief President Vladimir Putin has defied an avalanche of international sanctions to put his forces on stand-by to occupy two rebel-held areas of eastern Ukraine.

In response, Kyiv's President Volodymyr Zelensky has put Ukraine's more than 200,000 reservists on notice that they will receive summons to return to their units.

Ukraine's security council also yesterday called for a state of emergency in the country -- a measure that still needs to be formally approved by parliament.

Meanwhile, Ukraine urged its approximately three million citizens living in Russia to leave, as the crisis deepened despite intense international pressure on Moscow, backed by new economic sanctions.

Western capitals say Russia has amassed 150,000 troops in combat formations on Ukraine's borders with Russia, Belarus and Russian-occupied Crimean and on warships in the Black Sea.

Ukraine has around 200,000 military personnel and yesterday's call up could see up to 250,000 reservists aged between 18 and 60 receive their mobilisation papers.

Moscow's total forces are much larger -- around a million active duty personnel -- and have been modernised and re-armed in recent years.

But Ukraine has received advanced anti-tank weapons and some drones from Nato members. More have been promised as the allies try to deter a Russian attack or at least make it costly, reports AFP.

Washington and Britain say Russia's force is poised to strike Ukraine, but Putin says he is open to negotiation -- within limits.

Russia has demanded that Ukraine be forbidden from ever joining the Nato alliance and is seeking to roll back the advance of Western influence in eastern Europe since the Cold War.

"The interests of Russia, the security of our citizens, are non-negotiable for us," Putin said yesterday.

Russia said it had established diplomatic relations "at the level of embassies" with the separatists in Donbass, and started evacuating its diplomatic staff from all of its diplomatic facilities in Ukraine.

In Kyiv, President Zelensky warned yesterday that the "future of European security" was being decided in his country's standoff with Russia. He demanded "immediate" security guarantees from West and Russia.

Speaking to journalists, Putin on Tuesday set out a number of stringent conditions if the West wanted to de-escalate the crisis.

US President Joe Biden later announced tough new sanctions against Russia for "beginning" an invasion of Ukraine, but he left the door open to a final effort at diplomacy to avert a full-scale Russian invasion.

EU member states, Japan and Australia followed suit yesterday with their own stringent penalties for Moscow and individuals connected with the aggression against Ukraine. Kremlin officials have responded scornfully to the sanctions.

The White House signalled it no longer believes Russia is serious about avoiding conflict, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken cancelling a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov scheduled for today.

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