Live: UK unveils sanctions as Putin orders troops to go to eastern Ukraine

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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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Britain unveiled a “first tranche” of sanctions against Russian entities and individuals on Tuesday with the EU set to follow suit later.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson told lawmakers the sanctions against five Russian banks and three oligarchs are the “first barrage of what we are prepared to do and we hold further sanctions at readiness to be deployed alongside the US and EU if the situation escalates still further.”

EU foreign ministers are meanwhile set to meet at 16:00 CET to approve a package of measures against Russia. Germany has already announced it is suspending the certification process for the Nord Stream 2 pipeline linking it to Russia.

This is in response to Russian President Vladimir Putin ordering forces to “maintain peace” in separatist regions of eastern Ukraine, after first recognising the area’s independence, raising fears that an invasion is imminent if not already under way.

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;The UK announced a “first tranches” of sanctions, with the EU expecetd to follow suit on Tuesday afternoon. 

14:28

Russia not preparing to ‘reconstitute an empire’: Putin

“We had anticipated that there would be speculation that Russia was preparing to reconstitute an empire,” the Russian president said at a Kremlin meeting with his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev, and “this is absolutely not the reality. He added that after the fall of the USSR, Russia had “recognised the new realities and was actively working to strengthen” cooperation with other ex-Soviet countries, citing its neighbours Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan as examples.
He said Ukraine was in a “different situation” because “the territory of this country is used by third countries to create threats to Russia”.14:23

Pressure grows on UEFA to relocate Champions League final out of Russia

Britain’s Minister for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Nadine Dorries, said she has “serious concerns about the sporting events due to be held in Russia, such as the Champions League final, and will discuss with the relevant bodies.”We won’t allow President Putin to exploit events on the world stage to legitimise his illegal invasion of Ukraine,” she added. 

14:08

NATO to hold extraordinary meeting over Ukraine

13:55

Britain slaps sanctions on 5 Russian banks and three oligarchs

Speaking in Parliament, Johnson said that “today, the UK is sanctioning 5 Russian banks — Rossiya, IS Bank, General Bank, Promsvyazbank and the Black Sea Bank — and we’re sanctioning three very-high net-worth individuals.”These are Gennady Timchenko, Boris Rotemberg and Igor Rotenberg.Any asset they hold in the UK will be frozen and they are barred from entering the country, Johnson said, while UK individuals or entities are prohibited “from having any dealings with them.”This is the first tranche, the first barrage of what we are prepared to do and we hold further sanctions at readiness to be deployed alongside the US and EU if the situation escalates still further,” Johnson told lawmkers. 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.

Zelenskyy says Ukraine ‘not afraid’

The UN Security Council reacted to Putin’s announcements by holding 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.

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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