IN another sign of the deepening escalation of the crisis, the British Embassy in Kyiv announced it was moving 336 miles west, close to the Polish border.

The move mirrored a US embassy relocation last week – and is thought to be for the protection and security of staff amid fears of an imminent invasion.

Ukrainian National guard soldiers guard a mobile checkpoint amid fears of invasion


Ukrainian National guard soldiers guard a mobile checkpoint amid fears of invasionCredit: AP
The British Embassy in Kyiv has announced it is 'temporarily relocating'


The British Embassy in Kyiv has announced it is ‘temporarily relocating’Credit: Alamy
Russian tanks loaded on a train amid fears Putin is readying for war with Ukraine


Russian tanks loaded on a train amid fears Putin is readying for war with UkraineCredit: Getty

The UK Foreign Office confirmed: “The British Embassy office in Kyiv is temporarily relocating. Embassy staff are operating from the British Embassy office in Lviv.”

Of around 6,000 British passport holders in Ukraine were urged to leave immediately a week ago as tensions spiralled.

But the majority were still believed to have stayed put last night – after the embassy warned it would not be able to assist an evacuation if Russians invade.

Putin signed a decree to mobilise his reserve last night as more than half his army is committed to Ukraine and the west has warned thousands will die if he unleashes a planned bloodbath.

US officials said a full scale invasion with cyber, missile strikes and armoured columns was expected to start within days.

Russia’s ambassador to London Andrey Kelin warned Moscow “cannot just stand aside” if if Russian speakers were killed in Donbas, where a car bomb exploded last night.

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Putin already accused Ukraine of committing a genocide in the breakway territory and both sides accused each other of plotting chemical weapon attacks.

It comes after pro-Russian rebels ordered the mass evacuation of 500,000 people from the captured territories on the edge of Ukraine.

It’s feared this may be pretext for war that Putin has been waiting for so he can send his army of 200,000 soldiers over the border to invade.

Rebel boss Denys Pushilin warned it was now too dangerous for his people to stay after claiming Ukrainian forces tried to launch a doomsday attack on a chlorine plant.

Pushlin said the evacuation of hundreds of thousands from the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic must begin immediately, starting with women and children.

He urged people to leave and cross the border into Russia.

There have been also been unconfirmed reports of a car bomb exploding in Donetsk amid the unfolding chaos.

And meanwhile, the neighbouring rebel region of Luhansk’s People’s Republic has also ordered an evacuation.

Danger posed by a potential attack on the chlorine plant was ramped up by rebels who claimed explosions there could release poison gas, killing thousands.

But the evacuation was ordered despite no explosions at the site and no gas being released.

The wild claims were feared to be a Kremlin-inspired con to give Putin his long-awaited excuse to invade.

It is feared to be a so-called “false flag” – an engineered pretext to give one side an excuse for war.

Rebel boss Denys Pushilin called for an evacuation


Rebel boss Denys Pushilin called for an evacuation

Pictures show columns of buses and queues of cars apparently attempting to leave the rebel-held region, while videos show evacuation sirens blaring throughout the streets.

Other images show people queuing up at cash machines to withdraw their money, and massive lines of vehicles at petrol stations.

And Russian tanks, troops and warplanes are said to be “battle ready” to be unleashed on Ukraine on multiple fronts “at any time.”

Pushilin announced in a televised statement: “From today, evacuation has been announced, first of all, women and children are subject to evacuation.

“We kindly ask you to start evacuation, this will save your life and health.

“Evacuation will be carried out in agreement with the Russian leadership, evacuees will be placed on the territory of camps in the Rostov region.”

An announcement of Russia’s response was expected later today – days after scheming strongman Putin claimed Ukraine was guilty of “genocide” in Donbas.

The emergency was triggered early today by an attack on a chlorine plant blamed on Ukraine saboteurs by pro-Russian rebels – which was suspected to be another “false flag” stunt.

Rebels claimed to have fought off the Ukrainian strike team as dramatic video footage was released showing what appeared to be a firefight.

They claimed mercenaries from NATO member Poland  were involved in the shootout close to Horlivka in the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR).

Helicopters fly over during joint war games between Belarus and Russia


Helicopters fly over during joint war games between Belarus and RussiaCredit: Reuters
Pictures shared by Russian media showed buses lining up reportedly for the evacuation


Pictures shared by Russian media showed buses lining up reportedly for the evacuationCredit: Twitter
Residents of the regions are reportedly withdrawing cash from ATMs


Residents of the regions are reportedly withdrawing cash from ATMsCredit: Twitter
Pictures allegedly show queues of cars at petrol stations


Pictures allegedly show queues of cars at petrol stationsCredit: Twitter

The rebels claimed to have killed two members of a Ukrainian hit squad, and seized a body camera.

It was impossible to confirm the claims, but the alleged attack mirrors predictions from Western intelligence of efforts to provide Vladimir Putin with a pretext for invasion.

A statement from the DPR “people’s militia” said: “Our observers revealed the movement of two special-purpose groups of Ukrainian armed forces numbering 10 and 12 people.

“Our defenders were forced to open fire from duty weapons.

“The enemy suffered losses of at least two killed, three wounded and was forced to retreat.”

The footage was said to be from from a Ukrainian soldier’s body camera seized by the rebels near Zeleznaya Balka village.

The statement from the militia added: “According to our reconnaissance, saboteurs planned to blow up a container with chlorine on the territory of a sewage treatment plant near the city of Gorlovka (Horlivka).

Vladimir Putin is feared to be seeking a pretext for invasion


Vladimir Putin is feared to be seeking a pretext for invasionCredit: Reuters

“At the site of the clash, foreign-made personal protective equipment and ammunition, as well as an action camera mounted on a bulletproof vest, were found.

“We have previously reported on the participation of Polish mercenaries on the side of Ukrainian militants.”

They claimed the target in this alleged separate incident was an ammonia storage tank at the Stirol plant.

“The armed formations of Ukraine are purposefully trying to sow fear and panic among the civilian population of the Republic and for this purpose they choose vital civilian objects for strikes.”

In mid-January, Ukrainian military intelligence warned that a stunt was likely involving the ammonia at the Stirol plant.

They said it could be  a chemical weapons attack, and would be used as a trigger for invasion.

The January statement said said containers with ammonia were delivered to Horlivka in an area occupied by Russian troops.

It also warned that a “man-made disaster caused by the actions of the Russian occupation forces could be used to accuse Ukraine of using toxic chemicals a pretext for expanding armed aggression.”

The latest and most serious “false flag” alert comes just 24 hours after an artillery attack on a nursery school in Luhansk was branded a staged stunt by PM Boris Johnson.

It rocketed tension to new levels as Putin was handed an apparently manufactured excuse to finally order an invasion which could spiral into a World War III bloodbath.

A similar evacuation order was issued in the separatist city of Luhansk, ordered by rebel leader Leonid Pasechnik.

And within hours, buses began arriving to ferry out families in a potential exodus of half a million people from the strife-torn enclave.

Long queues began forming at ATM and cash machines as families prepared to leave as air raid sirens blared across the centre of Donetsk city centre.

Both Pushilin and Pasechnik blame Kyiv for the war – but Ukrainian leaders insisted they have no intention of attacking the separatist regions and that the attack was faked.

A Ukrainian government spokesman said of the evacuation: “This is possibly a preparation for the start of large-scale provocations against Ukraine.  including massive shelling.”

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