VLADIMIR ISACHANKOV and YURAS KARMANOV
MOSCOW (AP) – Western leaders said on Tuesday that Russian troops had moved to rebel-held areas in eastern Ukraine after President Vladimir Putin recognized their independence – but some said it was not yet the full-fledged invasion they had long feared. as confusion reigned in the country. reg.
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. They warned that the attack would lead to mass casualties, energy shortages in Europe and economic chaos around the world – and promised swift and serious sanctions if it materialized.
They also warned that Moscow would seek cover for the invasion – an occasion that arose on Monday when Putin declared two separatist regions in eastern Ukraine independent, where government troops have long fought Russian-backed rebels. Then on Tuesday, the Kremlin raised rates even more, saying that the recognition extends even to parts that are 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” independence in 2014 – large areas that go far beyond the territories currently under rebel control and which include a major port on the Black Sea. Mariupol.
Ukrainian forces later regained control of much of the two regions at the start of a nearly eight-year separatist conflict that killed more than 14,000 people.
The recognition move opened the door for Putin to formalize his power in the regions and send forces there, although Ukraine and its Western allies have long accused Russian troops of fighting there for years. Moscow has denied the allegations.
Condemnation of Russia’s steps from around 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 exactly was happening at the border threatened to hold back the West’s response.
“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 Borel said in Paris on Tuesday. “We consider Donbass part of Ukraine.”
But in contrast, which will probably 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.”
He said the European Union would decide on sanctions on Tuesday.
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 went further, telling Sky News that “the invasion of Ukraine has begun.”
He added: “We are waking up on a very dark day in Europe, and from what we have seen and found out today, it is clear that the Russians, President Putin, have decided to attack Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Russia’s steps have already provoked a reaction from Germany, which has taken measures to suspend the Nord Stream-2 gas pipeline, which was supposed to supply natural gas from Russia. Berlin postponed this step for a long time. The pipeline was built to help Germany meet its energy needs, particularly when it shuts down the last three nuclear power plants and gradually stops using coal.
Russian officials have not yet acknowledged the deployment of troops in the east of the rebels, but Vladislav Brig, a member of the local separatist council in Donetsk, told reporters that Russian troops had already entered, taking up positions in the north and west of the region. Late Monday, columns of armored vehicles were spotted in separatist-controlled areas. It was not immediately clear whether they were Russian.
While European leaders have struggled to decide on their response, 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 anything to anyone. “
His foreign minister, Dmitry Kuleba, will arrive in Washington on Tuesday to meet with Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, the State Department said.
“The Kremlin has acknowledged its own aggression against Ukraine,” Ukrainian Defense Minister Alexei Reznikov said on Twitter, describing Moscow’s move as a “new Berlin Wall” and calling on the West to impose sanctions on Russia as soon as possible.
The White House has already responded by ordering a ban on US investment and trade in the separatist regions, and additional measures were to be announced on Tuesday – possibly 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.
Other Western allies have also said they plan to declare sanctions, including on the EU.
The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Boris Johnson said that Britain would impose “immediate” economic sanctions against Russia, and warned that Putin was seeking a “full-scale invasion of Ukraine … it would be absolutely catastrophic.”
Johnson said Putin “completely broke international law” and that British sanctions would be aimed not only at the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, but also at “Russia’s economic interests as much as we can.”
He later tweeted that Russia had deployed troops to Ukraine.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said on Tuesday that China “will continue to work with all parties”, continuing to evade its commitment to support Russia, despite close ties between Moscow and Beijing.
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.
Continuing more than a century of history, Putin has portrayed today’s Ukraine as a modern construction that the West uses to deter Russia, despite inseparable ties to its neighbors.
In a sharp warning to Ukraine, the Russian leader accused her of unjustly inheriting Russia’s historic land handed over to her by communist leaders of the Soviet Union and mocked her efforts to get rid of the communist past as part of a so-called “decommunization” campaign.
“We are ready to show you what real decommunization will mean for Ukraine,” Putin added ominously, clearly signaling his readiness to make new land claims.
Amid rising tensions, US President Joe Biden and Putin have previously agreed to meet in a last-ditch effort to avoid war. But the United States has always said that if Russia enters, the meeting will be stopped.
This was reported by Karmanov from Ukrainian Kiev. Angela Charlton in Paris; Jill Lawless in London, Lorn Cook in Brussels, Zick Miller and Aamer Madhani in Munich, Germany; Geir Mulson 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.
Follow the coverage of the Ukrainian crisis of the AP at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine