geopolitics-01015

A guard post along the border between Russia and Ukraine has been hit by a projectile launched from across the frontier, the country’s top security agency has reported, amid a worsening military standoff in the neighboring Donbass region.

In a statement released on Monday, officials from the FSB’s press service announced that “on February 21, at 9:50 AM, a shell of an unknown type, fired from Ukrainian territory, completely destroyed the place of work of guards from the border department of Russia’s Federal Security Service in the Rostov region.”

The FSB said that the post is located around 150 meters from the Russian-Ukrainian border, close to the village of Shcherbakovo, Neklinovsky district. No casualties have been reported, and explosives specialists are said to have been brought in to ensure the site is safe.

A video shared by the agency shows what appears to be a destroyed structure in an isolated area close to the demarcation line, surrounded by trees and fields. No other damage or facilities can be seen in the clip.

While authorities have not announced who they believe is responsible for the incident, Aleksey Danilov, the secretary of Ukraine’s’ National Security and Defense Council, said shortly after reports were published that his country’s armed forces were not to blame and denied reports its troops were firing artillery.

The incident comes amid claims of a sharp spike in hostilities between the two breakaway self-declared Donbass republics in Donetsk and Lugansk and Kiev’s forces. Both sides have accused each other of heavy shelling, with international observers warning of a worsening crisis.

On Saturday, the Rostov branch of the FSB reported two explosions on the Russian side of the shared border, which neighbors the rebel-held territory.

“One of the shells exploded two kilometers from the Russian-Ukrainian border on the outskirts of the village of Mityakinskaya,” authorities said in a statement. “Another shell destroyed an outbuilding on the ground of a private home in the Manotsky farming community.” No injuries were reported, and a criminal investigation is said to have been launched.

An unnamed law enforcement source told RIA Novosti that the remains of a shell from a Soviet-era BM-21 Grad rocket launcher have been identified at one of the alleged sites. The system is believed to be used by both Ukraine’s armed forces and separatists in the two breakaway regions.

On Friday, rebel leaders in Ukraine’s Donbass claimed they have intelligence that Kiev is poised to order an offensive aimed at retaking the two regions, which declared their autonomy after the country’s government was topped following the 2014 Maidan. Neither Russia, Ukraine, nor any other nation recognizes their independence.

However, Kiev has insisted it has no plans to launch an attack. On Friday, Danilov claimed that “there is an attempt to provoke our forces,” adding that Ukrainian troops “can only open fire if there will be a threat to the lives of our service members.”

In the midst of the crisis, Russian President Vladimir Putin urged for a diplomatic solution to the increasingly tense situation. “All Kiev needs to do is sit down at the negotiating table with representatives of the Donbass and agree on political, military, economic, and humanitarian measures to end this conflict. The sooner this happens, the better,” he said on Friday.

In February, the US announced that it believes Russia is working to stage a ‘false flag’ incident in order to create a pretext for an invasion. The Kremlin has consistently denied the allegations, with spokesman Dmitry Peskov blasting classified intelligence reports aired by Washington as “hysteria.