Putin recognise two breakaway regions of eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday signed a decree to recognise two breakaway regions of eastern Ukraine as independent entities.

Putin said he was confident that Russia’s citizens supported the decision, brushing off Western warnings that such a step would be illegal and would kill off peace negotiations.

The Ukrainian military said two soldiers were killed and 12 wounded in shelling by pro-Russian separatists in the east in the past 24 hours, the most casualties this year, as ceasefire violations increased.

Putin’s announcement on Monday, and his signing of a decree on the deployment of Russian troops to the two breakaway regions, drew international condemnation and immediate U.S. sanctions, with President Joe Biden signing an executive order to halt U.S. business activity in the breakaway regions.

Rising fears of war pushed oil prices to a seven-year high on Tuesday, while safe-havens currencies including the yen rallied and global stocks tumbled.

The United States and its European allies are set to announce fresh sanctions against Russia on Tuesday.

“The United States will impose sanctions on Russia for this clear violation of international law and Ukraine sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told reporters after an emergency meeting of the Security Council late on Monday.

“We can, will, and must stand united in our calls for Russia to withdraw its forces, return to the diplomatic table and work toward peace.”

But a senior U.S. official said the deployment of Russian troops to the breakaway regions did not merit the harshest sanctions the United States and its allies had prepared in the event of a full-scale invasion, as Russia already had troops there.

A senior British government minister said it was clear Putin had chosen confrontation over dialogue and Britain would respond with sanctions.

“You can conclude that the invasion of Ukraine has begun,” Health Secretary Sajid Javid said.

He said the situation was as grave as the 1962 Cuban missile crisis when a confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union brought the world to the brink of nuclear war.

Russia has denied planning to attack its neighbour but it has massed troops on Ukraine’s borders and threatened “military-technical” action unless it receives sweeping security guarantees, including that Ukraine will never join NATO.

Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the recognition of the two regions did not affect Russia’s readiness for talks with the United States, the Tass news agency reported.

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