In picture above: A woman holds a placard during a protest outside Russian embassy after Moscow’s decision to formally recognise two Russian-backed regions of eastern Ukraine as independent in central Kyiv, Ukraine, February 22, 2022. REUTERS/Umit Bektas
Russia has been punished with fresh sanctions from Western nations and Japan for ordering troops into separatist regions of eastern Ukraine.
It has also been threatened with more sanctions if Moscow fully invades Ukraine.
The United States, the European Union, Britain, Australia, Canada and Japan intend to slam Russian banks and prominent Russians while Germany has halted a major gas pipeline project from Russia in one of the worst security crises in Europe in decades.
The Russian President Vladimir Putin has placed more than 150,000 troops near Ukraine’s borders, according to U.S. estimates, and ordered soldiers into the breakaway Donetsk and Luhansk regions to “keep the peace”.
The Russian move is perhaps because of Putin’s wariness about Ukraine’s goal of joining NATO, claiming Ukraine was historic Russian land,
But the United States disagrees and says it is “nonsense”.
“To put it simply Russia just announced that it is carving out a big chunk of Ukraine,” U.S. President Joe Biden said on Tuesday.
“This is the beginning of a Russian invasion.”
Reuters reports that satellite imagery over the past 24 hours shows several new troop and equipment movements in western Russia, with more than 100 vehicles at a small airfield in southern Belarus, which borders Ukraine.
The Ukrainian military is reported as saying early on Wednesday that one soldier had been killed and six wounded in 96 incidents of shelling by pro-Russian separatists in the east over the previous 24 hours. It said separatist forces used heavy artillery, mortars and Grad rocket systems.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian cancelled separate scheduled meetings with Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday as weeks of frantic diplomacy failed to end the crisis.
Plans announced by Biden to bolster Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania include sending 800 infantry soldiers and up to eight F-35 fighter jets to locations along NATO’s eastern flank, a U.S. official said, but are a redistribution, not additions.
Putin did not watch Biden’s speech and Russia will first look at what the United States has outlined before responding, according to Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov, cited by Russian news agencies.
Putin said he was always open to finding diplomatic solutions but that “the interests of Russia and the security of our citizens are unconditional for us.”
Moscow is calling for security guarantees, including a promise that Ukraine will never join NATO, while the United States and its allies offer Putin confidence-building and arms control steps to defuse the stand-off.
Lavrov brushed off the threat of sanctions.
“Our European, American, British colleagues will not stop and will not calm down until they have exhausted all their possibilities for the so-called punishment of Russia,” he said. (with REUTERS reports)