Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered Russian troops into Ukraine on a “peacekeeping operation” in Donetsk and Luhansk.
The move comes after it was announced that Russia would officially recognise the independence of the two separatists regions.
During an address on Russian state TV, President Vladimir Putin confirmed that the independence of both regions has been recognised and he will ask the government to ratify the decision as soon as possible.
Russia had previously made unsubstantiated accusations that Ukraine was committing a “genocide” against Russian-speaking population in these separatists regions, while President Putin has been accused of conducting false flag operations in eastern Ukraine in an attempt to create a pretext to invasion.
Why has Russia recognised the independence of Donetsk and Luhansk?
President Putin insisted that Ukraine is “preparing military action against our country”, adding that Russia’s concerns about security surrounding Ukraine’s aspiring membership of NATO posed a threat of a “sudden strike”.
He also accused Ukraine of being a “puppet” of the US and, without evidence, accused the Ukrainian government of corruption.
Drawing attention to the the history of the two nations, President Putin insisted that modern Ukraine had been built by Russia, and said that parts of eastern Ukrainian regions are ancient Russian lands.
The recognition of the independence of the two regions comes amid fears that an invasion is now imminent.
Could the recognition of independence lead to an full invasion?
The West are concerned that the latest move by Russia is a signal of their upcoming intention to conduct a full invasion of Ukraine.
Since 2014, Russian have issued passports to a large number of residents within Donetsk and Luhansk and by recognising their independence, there are fears that they could invade under the excuse of protecting their citizens.
Shortly after the announcement, President Vladimir Putin confirmed that Russian troops were to enter Donetsk and Luhansk on a “peacekeeping operation”.
The EU previously warned that severe sanctions would be imposed on Russia if it was to recognise the independence, adding that doing so was a “blatant violation of international law”.
European Commission’s president Ursula von der Leyen said: “The recognition of the two separatist territories in Ukraine is a blatant violation of international law, the territorial integrity of Ukraine and the Minsk agreements.
“The EU and its partners will react with unity, firmness and with determination in solidarity with Ukraine.”
Russia was last week accused by US President Joe Biden, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg of using false flag operations in eastern Ukraine as a pretext for invasion.
This included an incident which saw a Ukrainian nursery shelled during a standoff between Russian-backed separatists and Ukrainian forces.
What has been the reaction to the recognition?
The move has been met with frustration in Western allied stated.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that he had discussed Russia recognising Donetsk and Luhansk as independent states with US President Joe Biden and had plans to speak with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson later this evening.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg condemned the move by President Putin, saying: “In 2015, the United Nations Security Council, which includes Russia, reaffirmed its full respect for the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine. Donetsk and Luhansk are part of Ukraine.
“Moscow continues to fuel the conflict in eastern Ukraine by providing financial and military support to the separatists. It is also trying to stage a pretext to invade Ukraine once again.
“Nato supports the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognised borders. Allies urge Russia, in the strongest possible terms, to choose the path of diplomacy, and to immediately reverse its massive military build-up in and around Ukraine, and withdraw its forces from Ukraine in accordance with its international obligations and commitments.”
Mr Johnson backed his comments, stating that sanctions will be implemented against Russia at “the first toecap of a Russian incursion or a Russian invasion.”
He continued: “This is plainly in breach of international law, it’s a flagrant violation of the sovereignty and integrity of Ukraine.
“It is a repudiation of the Minsk process and the Minsk Agreements.
“I think it’s a very ill omen and a very dark sign.”
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