Buenos Aires Weather | Putin orders forces to move into separatist areas of Ukraine after decree

Russian President Vladimir Putin has announced he recognizes two self-declared breakaway republics in eastern Ukraine, a dramatic escalation in Moscow’s standoff with the West as the United States and its allies continue to warn that it could soon invade its neighbour.

Those fears were likely exacerbated by the detailed decrees Putin signed, including an order for the Defense Ministry to send what he called “peacekeeping forces” to breakaway regions. There were no details so far on how many troops might enter, or when, but Russia has previously accused Ukraine of having a large deployment of its own soldiers on the line of contact with the separatists.

While Russia will argue that Putin’s recognition of breakaway regions provides a legal basis for his troop presence, the move will likely fuel US and European concerns that Moscow is poised to seize control of territory internationally recognized as part of Ukraine, and would bring its forces closer to a direct confrontation with Ukrainian soldiers.

“The question now is whether the United States and its partners are ready to continue the dialogue under these new conditions,” said Andrey Kortunov, head of the Russian Council for International Affairs founded by the Kremlin. “We can say that the worst has not happened – a new major war has not started, at least for now – but after the reconnaissance we will probably see Russian troops deployed to the border with the rest of Ukraine and this be considered an act of aggression with all its consequences.

Putin signed aid and cooperation pacts with separatist leaders at a ceremony in the Kremlin after a televised address to Russians on Monday night. “I consider it necessary to take the long-awaited decision to recognize the independence and sovereignty of the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic,” Putin said.

He went on to call on the Kyiv government to immediately stop all military action or take full responsibility for “the possible continuation of bloodshed.” Ukraine and the West accuse Russia of inciting violence in a so-called “false flag” operation to justify intervention.

European Union states and the United States were quick to condemn Putin’s decision and to launch efforts to impose economic sanctions. It remains unclear what his announcement means for the risk of a full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine that the United States and NATO have been warning about for months. They accuse Russia of massing more than 150,000 troops near Ukraine for a possible attack, which the Kremlin has repeatedly denied. Putin told a meeting of his Security Council on Monday that Russia was not considering the issue of annexing the two territories.

The decree is the latest move in Putin’s 20-year campaign to restore Russia’s dominance over its former Soviet neighbors and prevent them from forging closer ties with the West, particularly the United Nations Treaty Organization. ‘North Atlantic. The Russian leader has spoken out against NATO’s eastward expansion and raised the stakes of the latest crisis by demanding that the military alliance exclude Ukraine from future membership and return its forces to positions they occupied in 1997.

The Russian president’s decision to recognize the separatists effectively torpedoes years of diplomatic efforts to implement a peace deal to resolve a conflict that has claimed 14,000 lives since Russian-backed separatists took control of the two areas in 2014. This decision also casts further doubt on the hopes raised. Sunday of a possible US-Russian summit to ease tensions.

News of the decree prompted rebukes across the EU, including in smaller states in the far east of the bloc. The UK is set to impose sanctions on Russia as early as Tuesday, and the EU will begin the process of agreeing sanctions for Putin’s move, diplomats familiar with the conversations said.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called Putin’s decision a “bad omen” and a “flagrant violation” of Ukraine’s sovereignty and integrity. “I don’t know what he has in mind,” he told a Downing Street press conference. “There’s a chance he could go back.”

US President Joe Biden had a phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy shortly after Putin’s announcement, then convened a call with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, the White House said.

The Biden administration is “ready to respond immediately” with an executive order that will prohibit new trade, investment and financing of breakaway regions by U.S. citizens, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement. a statement. “These measures are separate and would be in addition to the swift and severe economic measures we have prepared in coordination with Allies and partners should Russia further invade Ukraine,” she said. Trade and investment have already plummeted since Russian-backed separatists took control of the regions eight years ago.

‘Disappointment’

Hours before speaking on television, Putin told Macron and Scholz of his intention to sign the recognition decree during calls on Monday. European leaders “expressed their disappointment” but showed willingness to continue contacts, according to a statement from the Kremlin.

The United States and its allies have warned that any intervention in Ukraine will lead to swift and severe economic sanctions against Russia, although it is not certain how far they could go in response to Putin’s decision to recognize the regions. separatists. They also made it clear that they themselves would not send troops to Ukraine if Putin attacked.

In his televised address to Russians on Monday night, Putin devoted part of his pitch to a historical recitation aimed at showing that Russia’s former Soviet neighbors were created by the Bolsheviks and do not deserve to be considered true states. independent.

The recognition of the territories marks the fourth time that Putin has unilaterally redrew the borders that emerged from the collapse of the Soviet Union 30 years ago. After the 2008 war between Russia and Georgia, it recognized the breakaway territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states. In 2014, Putin annexed Crimea to Ukraine.

The recognition decision came after the Russian Security Council on Monday approved the decision at a special meeting. The Kremlin statement did not mention the separatists’ request for military aid along with the recognition.

Officials who spoke at the meeting urged Putin to recognize the separatists, with some saying the borders of what Russia would now consider a sovereign and independent state should expand further to include all of Ukraine’s provinces Donetsk and Luhansk – of which about 70% remains under the control of the Kyiv government.

Earlier on Monday, state television showed calls from separatist leaders for recognition, calling on the Kremlin to also agree to provide military support. Last week, the Russian parliament voted overwhelmingly to ask Putin to recognize the breakaway republics.

Putin had long rejected such calls, which would nullify the 2014-15 Minsk peace accords and with them the potential for reintegrated but newly autonomous pro-Russian regions to influence policy-making in Kyiv. It would also transfer the burden of pension payments and reconstruction costs from Kyiv to Moscow.

Russia has granted passports to more than 800,000 residents of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) and Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR), whom it has supported financially and militarily since their formation in 2014.

In recent days, separatist leaders said they were under attack by Ukrainian forces in what officials in Kyiv and the West described as a fabricated narrative, begun after Russia mounted a massive force to a potential attack.

On Monday, Russia said it killed five Ukrainian saboteurs and destroyed two Ukrainian armored personnel carriers that entered Russian territory. Ukraine dismissed this claim as false.

Recognition at this stage would only be the first step in a long chain of events, according to Pavel Danilin, a political analyst close to the Kremlin. “The DPR will be able to defend itself for several days. That will be enough to recognize their independence and send troops there,” he said. After that, he added, the two new states could demand that Ukraine withdraw its forces from the rest of Donetsk and Luhansk.

“And if there are attempts to deploy US offensive weapons, then other regions will follow,” Danilin said, with the “dismemberment” of Ukraine on the table.

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by Henry Meyer, Marc Champion and Tony Halpi, Bloomberg

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