DASHA LITVINOVA, JURAS KARMANOV and JIM HEINZ
KIU, UKRAINE (AP) – Russia has begun evacuating its embassy in Kyiv, and Ukraine has urged its citizens to leave Russia on Wednesday as the region prepares for further confrontation after President Vladimir Putin received permission to use military force outside his country. The West responded: sanctions.
Hopes for a diplomatic exit from a new, potentially devastating war in Europe were virtually dashed when the United States and key European allies accused Moscow on Tuesday of crossing the red line to cross Ukraine’s border into separatist regions, and some called it an invasion.
Russia has begun ravaging its diplomatic posts in Ukraine, the state news agency TASS reported a day after the foreign ministry announced an evacuation plan, citing threats. On Wednesday afternoon, the Russian flag was no longer hoisted over the embassy in Kyiv, and police surrounded the building.
After weeks of trying to project calm, Ukrainian authorities have expressed growing concern. The Foreign Ministry advised not to go to Russia and advised everyone to leave immediately, saying that Moscow’s “aggression” could lead to a significant reduction in consular services.
Chairman of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine Alexei Danilov called for a state of emergency in the country, which must be approved by parliament. He said regional authorities would decide what measures to take, but they could include additional security at public facilities, traffic restrictions and additional checks on vehicles and documents.
Minister of Digital Transformation of Ukraine Mykhailo Fedorov said that on Wednesday a wave of denial-of-service attacks targeted official websites and some banks that affected the websites of parliament, the Cabinet of Ministers and the Foreign Ministry offline and caused interruptions or delays on defense and interior websites. . which is controlled by the police.
These were just the latest in a series of signs of escalating tensions. Kyiv recalled its ambassador to Russia and considered severing all diplomatic ties with Moscow; dozens of countries have further pushed Russian oligarchs and banks out of international markets; Germany has stopped a lucrative pipeline deal; The United States has deployed additional troops to NATO’s eastern flank, which borders Russia; and the top U.S. diplomat canceled a meeting with his Russian counterpart.
The threat of war has already destroyed Ukraine’s economy and caused mass casualties, energy shortages across Europe and global economic chaos.
Even as the conflict took a new, dangerous turn, leaders warned it could still get worse. Putin has not yet released a force of 150,000 troops assembled from three sides of Ukraine, while US President Joe Biden has refrained from even tougher sanctions that could cause economic turmoil for Russia, but said they will move forward if further aggression.
German Foreign Minister Analena Burbock called the European Union’s sanctions on Tuesday only a “first step” and said it could be further. Sanctions are key because the West has ruled out military action against Russia.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba urged Western leaders not to wait.
“We urge our partners to impose more sanctions on Russia now,” he wrote on Twitter on Wednesday. “Now we need to increase the pressure to stop Putin. Impressed by his economy and allies. Hit more. Hit hard. Strike now. “
Russia’s ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov, responding to the steps already taken, retorted on Facebook that “sanctions will not solve anything. It is hard to imagine that there is a person in Washington who expects Russia to reconsider its foreign policy under the threat of restrictions. “
Russia’s foreign ministry will also resent the sanctions. “Russia has proven that with all the costs of sanctions, it is able to minimize the damage,” the statement said.
In eastern Ukraine, where an eight-year conflict between Russian-backed separatists and Ukrainian forces has killed nearly 14,000 people, violence has also intensified. One Ukrainian serviceman was killed and six others were injured in the shelling of the rebels, the Ukrainian military said. Separatist officials reported several explosions on their territory at night, killing three civilians.
Meanwhile, in St. Petersburg, several hundred people rallied in support of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk republics in the east, and Russia celebrated Defender of the Fatherland Day, which is celebrated by veterans and active servicemen of the country.
After weeks of rising tensions this week, Putin has taken a number of steps that have sharply raised the stakes. First, he recognized the independence of these separatist regions. He then said that the recognition extends even to most of the territories that are now in the hands of Ukrainian forces, including the large Azov port of Mariupol.
Finally, lawmakers gave him the authority to use military force outside the country, which effectively formalized the deployment of Russian troops in the rebel regions.
Putin put forward three conditions, which he said are the only ways out of the crisis: he called on Kyiv to recognize Russia’s sovereignty over Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula that Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014, to renounce its application for NATO membership and partially demilitarized. .
The first two demands were previously rejected by Ukraine and the West as non-initial.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has again called for talks with Putin.
“I have repeatedly invited the President of Russia to sit down at the negotiating table and talk. This is a matter of dialogue, not a matter of “conditions”, he said after a meeting with the presidents of Poland and Lithuania. The Kremlin has previously rejected such calls.
Putin was left blank when asked if he had sent any Russian troops to Ukraine and how far they could go, and Donetsk separatist leader Denis Pushylin said there were currently no Russian troops in the region.
Pushylin’s remarks contradict those of Vladislav Bryg, a deputy of the local separatist council in Donetsk, who said on Tuesday that Russian troops had already entered.
Litvinova reported from Moscow. Angela Charlton in Paris; Frank Jordans in Berlin; Aamer Madhani, Eric Tucker, Ellen Nickmeyer, Robert Burns, Matthew Lee, Zick Miller, Chris Megerian and Darlene Superville of Washington.
Follow the coverage of the Ukrainian crisis in the AP at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine