A tough global reaction to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s moves against Ukraine began to emerge on Tuesday as European countries prepared to impose sanctions and Germany halted a major gas pipeline, but the Russian leader remained defiant in the face of the world. convictions.
A day after Mr. Putin recognized two separatist regions in eastern Ukraine as independent, two European officials said on Tuesday that Russia had sent troops to the region, but the Russian Foreign Ministry has so far denied doing so. Frightened Ukrainians boarded buses from separatist regions even as Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, urged his embattled country to “keep calm” in the crisis.
But at the same time, Mr. Zelensky insisted that Ukraine would not give up territory, and it seemed that his defense minister, Oleksiy Reznikov, was preparing his country’s troops for battle.
“We are going to have a difficult trial,” Mr. Reznikov said in a sad letter released by the military. There will be losses. You will have to go through pain and overcome fear and despair.”
However, there was no immediate indication of a major military escalation in eastern Ukraine, and much of the focus on Tuesday was in European capitals, as leaders prepared for what they said would be a harsh sanctions package against Moscow. US and European leaders condemned Putin’s decision on Monday to recognize the breakaway regions, the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics that were created after Russia ignited a separatist war in eastern Ukraine in 2014.
In Moscow, Mr. Putin denied what he described as speculation that Moscow plans to “re-establish the Russian Empire within the borders of the empire”.
“This absolutely does not correspond to reality,” Putin said in televised remarks alongside Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, a former Soviet republic with close ties to Ukraine and Russia.
The day before, Mr. Putin gave a long fiery speech describing Ukraine as part of Russia, describing the government in Kiev as not just a “puppet” of the United States and its leaders solely responsible for any “bloodshed” that might come next. . Mr. Putin also raised the specter of fighting after ordering troops to move into the two breakaway regions of Ukraine that Russia had just recognized.
“As for those who took power in Kiev and still hold it, we demand that they stop military action immediately,” he said, referring to the Ukrainian capital.
White House officials said President Biden will impose economic sanctions on separatist regions of Ukraine, and that another Western response will be announced on Tuesday. By then, many of Biden’s aides said, they already expected to see Russian forces advancing across the border into Ukraine, crossing the line Biden set to impose “quick and hard” sanctions on Moscow.
In recent weeks, from 150 to 190 thousand Russian soldiers, according to Western estimates, gradually clamping down on their neighbors, and the United States repeatedly warned that the question about the Russian invasion was not whether it was or not.
Videos of military convoys moving through the separatist territory circulated on social media on Tuesday, but there was no immediate official confirmation that these were Russian forces and not those of Russian-backed separatists.
On the Ukrainian side, similarly unconfirmed reports have emerged on social media showing that the Ukrainian army is moving heavy weapons, such as self-propelled artillery and tanks, toward the front line with separatist enclaves.
Secretary of State Anthony J. Blinkin on Twitter That “Russia’s move to recognize the ‘independence’ of the so-called republics controlled by its proxies is a predictable shame.” He added that he told Ukraine’s Foreign Minister, Dmytro Kuleba, that the United States condemns these actions “in the strongest possible terms.”
At an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council late Monday, several countries criticized Russia, saying the move amounted to a violation of the UN Charter and an assault on Ukraine’s sovereignty. Although the meeting ended without action, Linda Thomas Greenfield, the US ambassador to the United Nations, said council members had “sent a unified message – that Russia should not start a war”.
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