The leaders of the breakaway regions of Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine announced a full-scale military mobilization, a move that the West fears could serve as a pretext for a Russian invasion amid a surge in violence in the war-torn region.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said he would oversee a major military exercise on the Ukrainian border on Saturday, while Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky would travel to Europe to garner support.

Russia has denied U.S. allegations that it was responsible for cyberattacks on Ukrainian banks and government websites, arguing that they were baseless.

Hi, my name is Linah Alsaafin and welcome to Al Jazeera’s ongoing coverage of the Ukraine-Russia crisis.

Men aged 18-55 not allowed to leave separatist-held Luhansk: rebel leader

Al Jazeera’s Charles Stratford reports from Mariupol in eastern Ukraine that the leader of the separatist region of Luhansk, Leonid Pasechnik, has banned all Men between the ages of 18 and 55 left the area.

“Following yesterday’s announcement, another very worrying development there [separatist] They call it the leader of the evacuation,” he said.

Ukrainian leader flies to Munich despite invasion fears

Zelensky has not changed his plans to attend the Munich Security Conference in person, his office said.

In a statement, his office said the situation in eastern Ukraine “remains under complete control.”

Zelensky will meet British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, German Chancellor Olaf Schultz and US Vice President Kamala Harris.

“Volodymyr Zelenskyy looks forward to a concrete agreement on additional military and financial support to our country,” his office said, adding that he would return to Kiev later on Saturday.

Ukraine reports one soldier killed in separatist shelling

A soldier was killed by pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, the Ukrainian military said.

The Ukrainian military said on its Facebook page that it had recorded 19 ceasefire violations by separatists since the start of the day, compared with 66 in the past 24 hours.

The military said the separatists had fired on more than 20 settlements using heavy artillery, a practice banned under the Minsk agreement.

Ukraine’s Luhansk rebel leader announces general mobilization

The leaders of the separatist region of Luhansk in eastern Ukraine followed Donetsk to issue a general mobilization order.

“My rule declares a general mobilization on the territory of the Luhansk People’s Republic,” said the decree signed by the head of the region, Leonid Pasechnik.

Ukrainian rebel leader announces ‘general mobilization’

Denis Pushilin, the leader of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic, a breakaway region of Ukraine, has claimed that troops in his region prevented what he said was a planned attack in Kiev, and that Ukrainian forces continued to carry out attacks

“I urge my compatriots in the reserves to come to the recruiting office. Today I signed a decree on general mobilization,” he said in a video statement.

“We will work together to achieve the victory we desire and need for all of us. We will protect the Donbass and all the Russian people,” Pushlin added.

The announcement comes amid a massive evacuation of women, children and elderly people from rebel-held areas in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions to neighboring Russia.

Russia denies claim it was responsible for Ukraine cyberattack

The Russian embassy in the U.S. tweeted that Russia denies U.S. allegations that it was responsible for the cyberattack on Ukrainian banks and government websites as unfounded.

“We categorically reject these baseless remarks by the government and point out that Russia has nothing to do with the above-mentioned events and in principle never and will not conduct any ‘malicious’ actions in cyberspace,” it said.

Deputy U.S. national security adviser Anne Newberg said on Friday that Russian military intelligence was behind a recent spate of distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks that briefly took Ukrainian banks and government websites offline.

War fears grow as Putin oversees drills, Zelensky meets with allies

Russian President Vladimir Putin will oversee major military exercises on the Ukrainian border, while his Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky will travel to Germany to meet Western leaders including U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris people.

Kremlin continues to say it has no plans to attack, even as Washington says Russia could invade in a few days.

You can read the update starting Friday, February 18 here.

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