A Russian region bordering Ukraine declared a state of emergency on Saturday after officials reported growing numbers of people arriving from two self-proclaimed republics－Donetsk and Luhansk－in east Ukraine's breakaway region of Donbass in response to evacuation orders.
"Given the trend of increasing numbers of people arriving, we consider it appropriate to introduce a state of emergency," Vasily Golubev, the governor of the Rostov region, said in a meeting, according to Russian news agencies.
The announcement was made as militia from the Donetsk region said the Ukrainian armed forces had shelled six populated areas in the region, including the largest city, Donetsk, late on Saturday and early on Sunday.
The militia said Donetsk was shelled early on Sunday, with a chemical factory targeted.
Militia in the Luhansk region said 49 cease-fire violations "committed by the Ukrainian armed forces were registered".
"In some of them, heavy weaponry was used," the militia said on the Telegram social media platform, adding that attacks by the Ukrainian government on Saturday targeted 27 residential areas of the republic.
The leaders of the two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine on Friday ordered civilians to cross the border into Russia, accusing the Ukrainian army of preparing to try to retake the regions by force.
The diplomatic effort to solve the Ukraine crisis was continuing, with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian discussing matters by phone on Saturday.
Balance of interests
Lavrov emphasized the need to ensure equal and indivisible security for all based on a balance of interests. He warned that ignoring the legitimate rights of Russia on security matters hurts not only the stability of Europe but also the world.
French President Emmanuel Macron and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin held a phone call on Sunday.
The call, Macron's office said, represented "the last possible and necessary effort to avoid a major conflict in Ukraine".
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock on Saturday warned against guessing or assuming Russia's decisions on Ukraine, after the United States warned again of an imminent invasion.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, attending the same conference, also pushed back against Washington's dire predictions.
"We do not think that we need to panic," Zelensky told an audience of top-level officials and security experts from around the world.
As for the weekend inflows into Russian territory, the country's emergencies ministry said about 400 people, as well as 150 vehicles, were involved in operations to receive people arriving from separatist territories.
Emergency services in the Donetsk region said earlier on Saturday that more than 6,600 people had been evacuated, and the state-run news agency RIA Novosti reported that those crossing checkpoints were being offered medical and psychological support.
NATO on Saturday began relocating staff from Ukraine's capital Kyiv to Lviv, in the west of the country, and to the Belgian capital Brussels, for their safety.
"The safety of our personnel is paramount, so staff (members) have been relocated to Lviv and Brussels. The NATO offices in Ukraine remain operational," an alliance official said, without giving numbers.