MOSCOW – Russian lawmakers on Tuesday allowed President Vladimir Putin to use military force outside the country, a move that could portend a wider attack on Ukraine after the United States said an invasion was already under way.

Several European leaders have said Russian troops have entered rebel-held areas in eastern Ukraine after Putin recognized their independence. But it was unclear how large the deployment was, and Ukraine and its Western allies have long argued that Russian troops are fighting in the region, which Moscow has always denied.

Members of the upper house, the Federation Council, voted unanimously to allow Putin to use military force outside Russia, effectively formalizing the deployment of Russian troops in rebel regions, which have killed nearly 14,000 people in an eight-year conflict.

Shortly afterwards, Putin set out three conditions for ending a crisis that threatens to plunge Europe back into war, causing mass casualties, energy shortages and economic chaos around the world.

He called for the international recognition of Crimea as part of Russia, an end to Ukraine’s aspirations for NATO membership and an end to arms supplies there. The West has considered Russia’s annexation of Crimea as a violation of international law and has previously categorically rejected Ukraine’s non-admission to NATO forever.

With rising tensions and the growing likelihood of a wider conflict, the White House began calling Russia’s deployment an “invasion” after initially hesitating to use the term – a red line that President Joe Biden said would lead to the US imposing serious fees. sanctions against Moscow. He scheduled an appeal Tuesday later.

“We believe this is, yes, the beginning of the invasion, the last Russian invasion of Ukraine,” John Feiner, chief deputy national security adviser, told CNN. “Invasion is invasion, and that’s what’s happening.”

The administration initially resisted calling the troop deployment an invasion because the White House wanted to see what Russia would actually do. After assessing the movement of Russian troops, it turned out that it was a new invasion, according to a US official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal discussions.

In a matter of weeks, Western powers have been preparing for an invasion as Russia has grouped about 150,000 troops from three sides of neighboring Ukraine – and has promised swift and severe sanctions if implemented. The European Union and the United Kingdom announced on Tuesday that some of these measures are coming.

Western leaders have long warned that Moscow would seek cover for the invasion – and this was the reason Monday when Putin declared two separatist regions in eastern Ukraine independent, where government troops fought Russian-backed rebels. Then on Tuesday, the Kremlin raised rates even more, saying that the recognition extends even to most of what is now in the hands of Ukrainian forces.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia had recognized the independence of the rebel regions “within the limits that existed when they declared” their independence in 2014 – vast territories that go far beyond the territories now under rebel control and which include the main port of the Sea of ​​Azov. Mariupol.

Putin’s points of recognizing the independence of the territories opened the door for him to formalize his power over them and send forces there, although Ukraine and its Western allies have accused Russian troops of fighting there for years. Moscow denies the allegations.

Condemnation from all over the world was swift. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has said he will consider severing diplomatic relations with Russia, and Kyiv has recalled its ambassador to Moscow.

But confusion over what was happening in eastern Ukraine threatened to hamper Western reactions. While the U.S. has clearly called it an invasion, some other allies have taken cover.

“Russian troops have entered the Donbass,” is the name of the area where the two separatist regions are located, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Joseph Barrel said in Paris. “We consider Donbass part of Ukraine.”

But in contrast, which could complicate the reaction of Europe and the West, he added: “I would not say that (this) is a complete invasion, but Russian troops are on Ukrainian soil.”

The Polish Ministry of Defense and the Minister of Health of the United Kingdom Sajid Javid also said that Russian forces had entered eastern Ukraine, Javid told Sky News that “the invasion of Ukraine has begun.”

Not everyone in Europe has seen it that way. Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albarez noted that “if Russia uses force against Ukraine, sanctions will be massive.”

The Kremlin has not confirmed the deployment of troops in the east of the rebels, saying it would depend on the security situation. Wladyslaw Brig, a deputy of the local separatist council in Donetsk, told reporters that Russian troops had already entered, but higher-ranking rebel leaders had not confirmed this. Late Monday, columns of armored vehicles were spotted in separatist-controlled areas. It was not immediately clear whether they were Russian.

In response to these steps, senior EU officials said the bloc was ready to impose sanctions on several Russian officials and banks that finance Russian forces, and limit Moscow’s access to EU capital and financial markets. They gave a few details.

EU foreign ministers will meet later Tuesday to discuss measures, but they do not appear to have included the severe punishment repeatedly promised in the event of a full-fledged invasion.

The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Boris Johnson also said that the United Kingdom will impose sanctions against five Russian banks and three wealthy people.

While he said Russian tanks had already entered eastern Ukraine, he warned that a full-scale offensive would bring “further powerful sanctions”.

The White House also tried to respond by issuing an order banning US investment and trade in the separatist regions, and additional measures were to be announced on Tuesday – possible sanctions. These sanctions do not depend on what Washington has prepared in the event of a Russian invasion, according to a senior administration official, who informed reporters on condition of anonymity.

Russia’s steps have also forced Germany to suspend the certification process for the Nord Stream-2 gas pipeline, which was to supply natural gas from Russia. The pipeline was built to help Germany meet its energy needs, particularly when it shuts down its last three nuclear power plants and gradually stops using coal, and it has resisted calls from the U.S. and others to stop the project.

While world leaders have tried to decide on their answer, the Russian parliament has passed legislation that is likely to pave the way for a deeper transition to Ukrainian territory.

The bills, which quickly passed through the Kremlin-controlled parliament, provide for military ties between Moscow and the separatist regions, including the possible deployment of Russian military bases in the separatist regions.

Even as the alarm spread around the world, Zelensky, Ukraine’s president, sought to project calm by telling the country in an address for the night: “We are not afraid of anyone or anything. We don’t owe anyone anything. And we will not give anyone anything. “

His foreign minister, Dmitry Kuleba, will arrive in Washington on Tuesday to meet with Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, the State Department said.

Russia has long denied plans to invade Ukraine, instead blaming the United States and its allies for the current crisis and describing Ukraine’s bid to join NATO as an existential challenge to Russia. Putin reiterated the allegations in an hour-long televised speech Monday, announcing that Russia recognizes the rebels.

“Ukraine’s membership in NATO poses a direct threat to Russia’s security,” he said.

Russia says it wants assurances from the West that NATO will not allow Ukraine and other former Soviet countries to join as friends. Moscow has also demanded that the alliance stop deploying weapons in Ukraine and withdraw its forces from Eastern Europe, demands that the West has categorically rejected.

Putin warned on Monday that the West’s rejection of Moscow’s demands gives Russia the right to take other steps to protect its security.


Karmanov reported from Kyiv (Ukraine) and Madhani from Washington. Jill Lawless in London, Lorne Cook in Brussels, Barry Hutton in Lisbon, Portugal, Zick Miller and Aamer Madhani in Munich, Germany; Geir Moulson and Frank Jordans in Berlin; Edith M. Lederer of the United Nations, as well as Eric Tucker, Ellen Nickmeyer, Robert Burns, Matthew Lee and Darlene Superville of Washington contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2022, Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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