New York February 22: President Vladimir V. Putin ordered troops into two Russia-backed separatist territories in Ukraine and hinted at the possibility of a wider military campaign and laid claim to all of Ukraine as a country “created by Russia” in an emotional and aggrieved address to the Russian people, the New York Times reports.
Russian state television then showed Mr. Putin signing decrees late Monday recognizing the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics and directing the Russian Defense Ministry to deploy troops in those regions to carry out “peacekeeping functions,” NYT said.
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The order was condemned as a violation of international law and Ukraine’s sovereignty by several nations at an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council on Monday night.
“He calls them peacekeepers,” said Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. “This is nonsense. We know what they really are.”
It was not immediately certain whether the Russian troops would remain only on the territory controlled by the separatist republics, or whether they would seek to capture the rest of the two Ukrainian enclaves whose territory they claim.
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And so it was unclear if a long-feared Russian full-scale invasion of Ukraine had begun. The separatists might have invited Russian forces in, but neither Ukraine nor the rest of the world views the so-called republics as anything but Ukrainian territory.
The threat was clear to the government of President Volodymyr Zelensky, which denies that it is responsible for the escalating shelling on the front line between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed separatists in recent days. Russian state television has broadcast extensive reports claiming, without evidence, that Ukraine is preparing an offensive against the separatist territories.
Mr. Zelensky, in a televised statement, urged Ukraine’s allies to take action immediately and called for the Ukrainian people to remain calm.
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“We are on our own land,” he said. “We are not afraid of anything or anyone.”
Mr. Zelensky spoke to President Biden and called a meeting of his Security and Defense Council.
Two breakaway territories in eastern Ukraine are at the center of the conflict after Russia recognized their independence.
White House officials said Mr. Biden would impose sanctions against people doing business in the separatist regions and that the White House would soon announce more.
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Condemnations of Russia’s actions rang out around the continent, with British and European Union leaders vowing to impose sanctions on those involved.
“Putin just put Kafka and Orwell to shame: no limits to dictator’s imagination, no lows too low, no lies too blatant, no red lines too red to cross,” Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė of Lithuania said. “What we witnessed tonight might seem surreal for the democratic world. But the way we respond will define us for the generations to come.”
Mr. Putin went so far as to describe Ukraine’s elected pro-Western leaders as stooges and cast them as the aggressors — even though Russia has an estimated 150,000 to 190,000 soldiers surrounding Ukraine.
While Mr. Putin’s ultimate plans remain a mystery, a full invasion would constitute the largest military action in Europe since World War II.
Now edging toward the twilight of his political career, Mr. Putin, 69, is determined to burnish his legacy and to correct what he has long viewed as one of the greatest catastrophes of the 20th century: the disintegration of the Soviet Union.
Asserting Moscow’s power over Ukraine, a country of 44 million people that was previously part of the bloc and shares a 1,200-mile border with Russia, is part of his aim of restoring what he views as Russia’s rightful place among the world’s great powers, the United States and China.
Condemned at U.N. Security Council Meeting
The United States and allied nations sought to isolate Russia on Monday at an emergency United Nations Security Council meeting over the Ukraine crisis, calling Moscow’s recognition of two separatist regions and the deployment of Russian troops a blunt defiance of international law that risks war.
The unusual late-evening meeting of the Council was requested by Ukraine after President Vladimir V. Putin ordered troops into the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics, escalating a conflict that Western officials warn could explode into one of the biggest armed clashes in Europe since World War II.
The U.N. meeting quickly turned into a diplomatic rebuke of Russia’s actions, which were condemned as a violation of the United Nations Charter and the sanctity of national borders.
“Russia’s clear attack on Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity is unprovoked,” Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the American ambassador to the United Nations, told fellow diplomats.
She ridiculed Mr. Putin’s assertion that Russian forces had been deployed as peacekeepers and called his attempt to recreate the Russian empire an antiquated throwback.
“Putin wants the world to travel back in time. To a time before the United Nations. To a time when empires ruled the world,” she said. “But the rest of the world has moved forward. It is not 1919. It is 2022.”
The representatives of France and Britain issued similar denunciations. “Russia is choosing the path of confrontation,” said France’s ambassador, Nicolas de Rivière. Britain’s ambassador, Barbara Woodward, said: “Russia has brought us to the brink. We urge Russia to step back.”
Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia of Russia, who is president of the council for February and was obliged to schedule the meeting, categorically rejected any criticism. He framed his country’s actions as help for the Russian-speaking inhabitants of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, known as the Donbas, which have been engaged in a low-level war with Ukraine since 2014. Mr. Nebenzia described them as victims of Ukrainian attacks and subterfuge.
The meeting adjourned after 90 minutes, with no action taken. Ms. Thomas-Greenfield said afterward that council members had “sent a unified message — that Russia should not start war,” New York Times said.
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