Live: Putin orders Russian troops into eastern Ukraine to ‘maintain peace’

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Russian President Vladimir Putin signs a document recognizing the independence of separatist regions in eastern Ukraine in the Kremlin, Monday 21st February 2022

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(AP Photos: Alexei Nikolsky/Sputnik)

Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered forces to “maintain peace” in separatist regions of eastern Ukraine, hours after the Kremlin recognised the area’s independence.

The announcement raised fears that an invasion was imminent, if not already under way.

Underscoring the urgency, the UN Security Council held a rare nighttime emergency meeting on Monday at the request of Ukraine, the US and other countries while the White House issued an executive order to prohibit US investment and trade in the separatist regions.

Additional measures such as sanctions were set to be announced on Tuesday.

Follow the developments live

06:17

The key points to know

    Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday night recognised the independence of the so-called Donestk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic — two separatist-held areas in eastern Ukraine.He signed a decree to dispatch Russian troops for “peacekeeping functions” in the regions.Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told the nation in a televised address: “We are not afraid of anyone or anything”.The UN Security Council held an emergency meeting.

13:40

UK and Austria summon Russian ambassadors

A spokesperson for Boris Johnson told reporters that “this morning the foreign office has summoned the Russian ambassador.”The Austria government has issued a similar statement13:30

Von der Leyen and Michel vow to block Russia from EU markets
 

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel gave a preview of the new package of EU sanctions against what they call Russia’s “illegal and unacceptable” recognition of Donetsk and Luhansk as independent.

The sanctions will target those involved in the recognition and punish “banks that are financing Russian military” operations in the separatist territories, the EU leaders said in a joint statement.

The package will aim to cripple “the ability of the Russian state and government to access the EU’s capital and financial markets and services” in order to cut off additional funding to bankroll “escalatory policies.​”

Von der Leyen and Michel also said the new sanctions will limit the trade between the bloc and the two breakaway regions “to ensure that those responsible clearly feel the economic consequences of their illegal and aggressive actions.”

“We stand by and will continue to support Ukraine and its people,” the presidents added.

 

13:26

Finland does not see increase in Russian military activity in Baltics

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto said that “strangely enough, (the) situation in the entire Baltic Sea area seems very calm and the number of Russian military equipment dispatched in the area is on the decline.”

He said he doesn’t see Finland facing a military threat from Russia. The two countries share a long border.

Niinisto said he didn’t know why Russia has “now simply decided to settle the Ukraine situation that has been going on for some seven, eight years.”13:08

12:52

EU ambassadors agree to move quickly on sanctions

EU ambassadors discussed a fresh package of EU sanctions in response to the Russian recognition of the separatist republics of Donetsk and Luhansk.

The representatives agreed to move fast with the package’s adoption, which is expected to be green-lighted later today by EU foreign affairs ministers in Paris.

The Hungarian ambassador expressed caution and underlined the need for dialogue but did not oppose the measures, Euronews understands.

Eric Mamer, the European Commission’s chief spokesperson. said the executive presented member states with a “forceful” package of sanctions against “those involved in this illegal act” of recognition, but refused to provide details until the final list is officially approved.

Mamer rejected the characterisation of the sanctions as “targeted,” as reported by some media outlets, and said the new measures will not be a mere “mirror” of the punitive actions the bloc took against Russia back in 2014 after the Crimea annexation.

12:15

Germany suspends certification of Nord Stream 2: Scholz

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced that he has ordered the withdrawal of a key document needed for the certification of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.The pipeline, joining Russia to Germany through the Baltic Sea, was completed last summer but the German regulator postponed its certification, demanding the German operator be domiciled in Germany. Both Kyiv and Washington have criticised the pipeline, arguing it provides Russia with an additional tool to pressure Ukraine. “The situation today looks fundamentally different,” Scholz said at a press conference.

He said he asked to withdraw a key report on the security of supply.

“It sounds a bit technocratic but this is the first necessary step to make sure that the pipeline cannot be certified at this time,” Scholz said.
12:04

What kind of sanctions could the EU slap on Russia?

Since Russia invaded and annexed the Crimea peninsula in early 2014, the European Union has imposed a series of sanctions against those accused of undermining Ukraine’s territorial integrity.The penalties today cover 48 entities and 193 persons, such as judges, prosecutors and members of the State Duma, who are subject to asset freezes and travel bans, preventing them from entering or passing through EU territory. The EU has also drastically cut its economic ties with Crimea and Sevastopol through import and export bans, restrictions on trade and investment, and a prohibition to provide tourism services in the occupied areas.The bloc has also introduced some measures that directly target the Russian economy but with a much more specific scope: restrictions for certain banks and companies, export bans on arms and dual-use goods (which can be used for both civilian and military purposes), and limits to access sensitive technologies and services related to oil production and exploration. Oil and gas exports are considered the backbone of Russia’s economic model.In response to the Crimea annexation, Russia was expelled from the Group of Eight (G8), which today continues to meet as the G7.11:43

Russian MPs approve Putin’s agreement with separatist leaders

“State Duma deputies ratified the Treaty on Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance between the Russian Federation and the Luhansk People’s Republic and the Treaty on Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance between the Russian Federation and the Donetsk People’s Republic,” the Duma said in a statement.The treaties unveiled by Putin on Monday evening allowed for the Russian leader to announce the deployment of troops for “peacekeeping duties” in the two “countries”.Russian MPs demanded through a resolution last week that Putin recognise the two so-called republics as independent. 11:24

Zelenskyy demands ‘immediate’ halt to Nord Stream 2 pipeline

The Ukrainian president told reporters during a joint press conference with his Estonian counterpart that they “agreed on the need for the immediate introduction of sanctions for a new act of aggression against Ukraine””These sanctions must include the complete shutdown of Nord Stream 2,” he added. 

Zelenskyy says Ukraine ‘not afraid’

Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, sought to project calm, telling the country: “We are not afraid of anyone or anything. We don’t owe anyone anything. And we won’t give anything to anyone.”

He said Kyiv “unequivocally qualifies the recent actions of the Russian Federation as a violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of our state” and said he now expects “clear and effective support steps from our partners.”

His foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, would be in Washington on Tuesday to meet with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the State Department said.

Meanwhile British Prime Minister Boris Johnson held a call with President Zelenskyy on Monday evening in which he “strongly condemned” Russia’s decision to recognise the breakaway republics and said Britain might send more military support to Ukraine.

“He told President Zelenskyy that the UK had already drawn up sanctions to target those complicit in the violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, and that those measures would come into force tomorrow,” Downing Street said in a statement.

“The Prime Minister also said he would explore sending further defensive support to Ukraine, at the request of the Ukrainian Government.” Johnson is set to chair a high-level security meeting early Tuesday morning to coordinate the UK’s response.

More criticism from the international community

In a joint statement on Monday evening, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Council President Charles Michel said the recognition was “a blatant violation of international law” and promised to impose more sanctions against those involved in Russia’s recognition of the two separatist regions.

White House spokesperson Jen Psaki said President Joe Biden “will soon issue an Executive Order that will prohibit new investment, trade, and financing” in the regions, or on anyone “determined to operate in those areas of Ukraine.” She said those measures would be separate from tougher sanctions the US is preparing in case of a Russian invasion.

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