MOSCOW -- Russian authorities have published new regulations on the expedited mass burial of humans and animals who die as a result of military conflicts or noncombatant emergencies, stoking already heightened tensions that the country may be preparing to invade Ukraine.
The document -- published on the Emergencies Ministry's website on December 20 -- appears as the United States, the European Union, and Ukraine have expressed alarm over Russia' buildup of tens of thousands of soldiers near Ukraine’s borders, interpreting it as a possible prelude to military action.
Russia has denied it is planning to invade Ukraine and has issued a series of demands, including direct dialogue with the United States to resolve security issues. Moscow is seeking a guarantee that Ukraine won’t one day become a member of NATO.
According to the document, expedited mass burials pertain to those "killed during military conflicts or as a result of these conflicts, or, if necessary, as a result of an emergency in peacetime." The regulations will take force as of February 1, 2022.
The regulations would not allow mass graves to be located close to water supply and sewage systems, natural sources of mineral water, and rivers and lakes with water levels up to 2 meters from the land surface.
The document also says that regional authorities will be responsible for preparing and carrying out work related to mass burials.
An ongoing military conflict between pro-Russia separatists and Kyiv's armed forces in Ukraine's eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk has displaced more than 1.5 million people and killed more than 13,200.
Some areas of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, commonly known as the Donbas, have been under the control of Moscow-backed separatists since April 2014.
The conflict started after Russia invaded and occupied Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in February-March 2014.
Despite overwhelming evidence showing Russia has provided military, economic, and political support to the separatists, Moscow maintains it is not involved in Ukraine's domestic affairs.