Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recognition of the secessionist eastern Ukrainian territories appears to be the starting point for a major possible military operation aimed at Ukraine, according to CNN, according to CNN.
“This is Botemkin’s politics,” a senior executive told reporters Monday. “President Putin is accelerating the conflict he has created.”
The U.S. expects Russian troops to move into Ukraine’s Donbass region on Monday evening or Tuesday after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s free recognition of the two pro-Moscow territories, a senior U.S. official familiar with the latest intelligence told CNN.
The United States still sees preparations for a possible invasion, including the loading of submarines and equipment for aerial divisions.
U.S. and Western officials say Putin’s decision to sign a decree declaring Russia-backed Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) and Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR) independent territories justifies Putin’s desire to send Russian troops. A broader offensive could be launched against Ukraine in the name of protecting separatist areas.
On Monday evening the Kremlin announced that Russia would send “peacekeeping” troops to the separatist areas, confirming the abysmal fears of many officials.
“This is your invasion,” said one European ambassador. “If we do not act as we were told, and there is another invasion, we will severely undermine our credibility,” the diplomat said.
However, in a press conference, the senior executive advised reporters that the move of the new Russian “peacekeeping forces” into eastern Ukraine would not trigger a full embargo threatened by the administration in the event of a Russian invasion. “There are Russian forces in these areas” since 2014.
“So we are going to look very closely at what they are doing in the coming hours and days and our response will be measured according to their actions,” the official said. The official said, “Now it looks like Russia is openly operating in the region and we will respond accordingly.”
The official did not identify which fort the Russian troops would have to cross to be considered a new invasion of eastern Ukraine.
The White House said Monday that Biden would impose new financial restrictions on the divided republics, and a senior executive told reporters that further action would be announced on Tuesday. But some officials say the fines have not gone far enough – especially considering what Biden said last month, “if any assembled Russian forces move on the Ukrainian border, it will face an invasion” and a “severe and integrated economic retaliation.”
CNN’s Oren Liebermann, Katie Bo Lillis and Sebastian Shukla contributed to the report.
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