LUGANSK, February 24. /TASS/. The People’s Militia of the Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR) has launched an operation to liberate the temporarily occupied areas of the republic, targeting military facilities and the places where the Ukrainian Armed Forces’ troops and equipment are deployed, LPR Militia Spokesman Ivan Filiponenko said in a video address on Thursday.
"On February 24, the People’s Militia of the Lugansk People’s Republic launched artillery preparations and an operation to liberate the temporarily occupied territory of the LPR. Militia units are targeting only military facilities and the places where the Ukrainian Armed Forces’ troops and equipment are deployed. There is no threat to the civilian population," he pointed out.
"I call on the members of the Ukrainian Armed Forces to lay down their arms, leave their positions and refrain from following the unlawful orders of their commanding officers. This is the only way they can obtain a decent life in a free country," the spokesman added.
"I urge the citizens of the Lugansk People’s Republic living in frontline areas and those residing in the territory temporarily controlled by Kiev to stay home and, if possible, hide in underground shelters because the enemy is cunning beyond measure," Filiponenko said.
On February 21, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the recognition of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics amid a serious rise in tensions. The treaties on friendship, cooperation and mutual assistance were signed with their leaders.
On Thursday morning, Putin said in a televised address that in response to a request by the heads of the Donbass republics he had made a decision to carry out a special military operation in order to protect the people "who have been suffering from abuse and genocide by the Kiev regime for eight years." The Russian leader stressed that Moscow had no plans to occupy Ukrainian territories.
Russia’s Defense Ministry reported later that the Russian Armed Forces were not delivering strikes against Ukrainian cities. The ministry emphasized that the Ukrainian military infrastructure was being destroyed by precision weapons and there was no threat to civilians.