Russia recognizes Ukraine-held regions as part of rebel areas

Russia recognizes Ukraine-held regions as part of rebel areas

Russia announced on Tuesday that its recognition of independence for areas of eastern Ukraine extends to the area currently occupied by Ukrainian forces – further raising the stakes amid Western fears that a full invasion of Ukraine is imminent.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia recognized the independence of the rebel territories “within the limits” when they declared their independence in 2014.

Ukrainian forces later gained control of large parts of both regions during a nearly eight-year conflict that killed more than 14,000 people.

A day after the announcement, Russia said it would recognize independence – but did not say what it considered the borders of those regions. The move was widely seen in the West for predicting a Russian invasion.

Western leaders have condemned the move and said they were preparing to announce sanctions.

Russian officials have not yet acknowledged the deployment of any troops to the rebel east, but Vladislav Brigg, a member of the separatist local council in Donetsk, told reporters that Russian troops had already moved north and west of the region. Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky tried to keep calm, saying in an overnight address to the nation, “We are not afraid of anyone or anything. We don’t owe anyone anything. And we won’t give anything to anyone.” The State Department said its foreign minister, Dimitro Culeba, would be in Washington on Tuesday to meet with Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

White House reaction

The White House issued an executive order restricting US investment and trade in separatist areas, and additional measures – potential sanctions – were to be announced on Tuesday. According to a senior administration official who briefed reporters, the sanctions are independent of what Washington has prepared in the event of a Russian aggression.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Tuesday that Britain would also impose “immediate” economic sanctions against Russia. He said Putin had “totally torn international law” and that the British sanctions would not only target the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, but “strike Russian economic interests as hard as we can.” European Union foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, said “Russian troops have entered the Donbass,” adding, “I would not say (this) a complete invasion, but Russian troops are on Ukrainian soil” and The European Union will make a decision on sanctions later on Tuesday.

Putin announced the move in an hour-long televised speech, blaming the US and its allies for the current crisis and describing Ukraine’s bid to join NATO as a potential challenge to Russia. “Ukraine’s membership in NATO is a direct threat to Russia’s security,” he said.

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