Breakaway rebel areas in Ukraine’s east have been recognized as separate republics by Russian President Vladimir Putin, effectively ending peace talks in the region.
Russia-backed separatists have been fighting Ukrainian forces in the self-declared people’s republics of Donetsk and Luhansk since 2014.
In both places, Russian forces have been assigned to execute so-called “peacekeeping missions.” Ukraine’s president accused Russia of deliberately infringing on the country’s sovereignty.
President Volodymyr Zelensky said Ukraine wants peace in a late-night televised speech to the nation, but added, “We are not terrified” and “will not give anything up to anyone.” International partners must now provide “clear and effective actions of support” to Kyiv.
“It’s critical to recognize now who our true friend and partner is, and who will continue to scare Russia with words alone,” he continued.
Western governments are concerned that Mr Putin’s acceptance of rebel-held territory may allow Russian forces to enter Ukraine’s east.
Russian passports have been issued to a considerable number of individuals in Donetsk and Luhansk in recent years, and Western allies are concerned that Russia would now send military forces in under the pretence of safeguarding its residents.
Mr Putin argued that modern Ukraine was “made” by Soviet Russia in an hour-long speech delivered shortly after the declaration on Monday, referring to the country as “old Russian territory.”
He said that Russia was “robbed” when the Soviet Union fell apart in 1991, that Ukraine is a “US colony” governed by a puppet government, and that Ukrainians are suffering under its current administration. He portrayed the 2014 protests that overthrew Ukraine’s pro-Russian president as a coup.
‘It’s inexcusable and unprovoked,’ says the author.
President Joe Biden signed an executive order prohibiting new investment, commerce, and financing by Americans in the separatist territories, which was promptly condemned by the US.
The steps, according to the White House, are distinct from broader Western penalties that are poised to be implemented “should Russia continue to occupy Ukraine.”
Russia’s actions, according to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, are a “flagrant violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and integrity” that violates international law. It was “a really awful omen and a very dismal sign,” he claimed. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss indicated on Tuesday that the UK would announce further sanctions against Russia.
The EU promised to “respond in solidarity with Ukraine with unity, firmness, and determination.”
“It’s unacceptable, it’s unprovoked, it’s unnecessary,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters of the possibility that Russian troops will be assigned to a peacekeeping mission. It’s absurd that they’re involved in peacekeeping.”
Vladimir Putin’s move exacerbates the continuing crisis in Ukraine, which is surrounded on all sides by more than 150,000 Russian troops. Russia has refuted the allegations.
Putin the enraged, impatient, and blatantly threatening delivered this address. It felt as if Russia’s president was shaking off 20 years of pain and retaliating.
He told the West, “You didn’t have to make an enemy of us because you didn’t want us to be friends.”
There was a lot we’d heard before, but it was repackaged for this moment when he knew he had everyone’s full attention.
He’s making no concessions on his core security demands: Nato expansion must be halted, and Ukrainian membership is a no-no. For years, he claimed, Russia’s concerns had been dismissed as inconsequential, and he accused the West of attempting to “contain” Russia as a resurgent global force.
Mr Putin’s obsession with Ukraine felt compulsive, as if he had little else on his mind. It was so thorough at times that it seemed like a campaign for president.
And, of course, there was his rewriting of Ukrainian history to say that the country was never a state in the first place. That has dangerous overtones in today’s context.
Recognizing Ukraine’s two separate regions might lead to Russian forces entering openly, very soon — as “peacemakers.” Alternatively, there might be a delay while Putin awaits his opponent’s next move.
Ukraine is the battleground in all of this. But it’s also a brinkmanship game between Russia and the West, with a clash looming.
Both Germany’s Chancellor Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron spoke with the Russian leader ahead of his announcement. Western powers have rallied behind Ukraine, promising harsh sanctions against Russia if it invades – though it is not yet clear how far the response to this move will go.