With Russia sending in the armed forces and the United States promising sanctions, the Ukraine conflict entered a perilous new chapter on Tuesday as the path to a diplomatic solution quickly narrowed.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has been tough about what awaits him, calling Ukraine more than a “puppet” of the United States, and Kiev’s leaders solely responsible for any “bloodshed” that may come next. Mr. Putin also raised the specter of fighting after ordering troops to move into the two breakaway regions of Ukraine that Russia had just recognized.
“As for those who took power in Kiev and still hold it, we demand that they stop military action immediately,” he said, referring to the Ukrainian capital.
Ukraine’s leaders prepared for the prospect of an intense battle to defend their territory, delivering a somber message to troops on Tuesday. “We will have a difficult trial ahead,” Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said in a statement issued by the army. There will be losses. You will have to go through pain and overcome fear and despair.”
White House officials said President Biden will impose economic sanctions on separatist regions of Ukraine, and that another Western response will be announced on Tuesday. By then, many of Biden’s aides said, they already expected to see Russian forces advancing across the border into Ukraine, crossing the line Biden set to impose “quick and hard” sanctions on Moscow.
In recent weeks, from 150 to 190 thousand Russian soldiers, according to Western estimates, gradually clamping down on their neighbors, and the United States repeatedly warned that the question about the Russian invasion was not whether it was or not.
Videos of military convoys moving through the separatist territory circulated on social media on Tuesday, but there was no immediate official confirmation that these were Russian forces and not those of Russian-backed separatists.
On the Ukrainian side, similarly unconfirmed reports have emerged on social media showing that the Ukrainian army is moving heavy weapons, such as self-propelled artillery and tanks, toward the front line with separatist enclaves.
The United States and its allies quickly condemned measures taken by Russia on Monday to recognize the breakaway regions, the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics that were created after Russia ignited a separatist war in eastern Ukraine in 2014.
Secretary of State Anthony J. Blinkin on Twitter That “Russia’s move to recognize the ‘independence’ of the so-called republics controlled by its proxies is a predictable shame.” He added that he told Ukraine’s Foreign Minister, Dmytro Kuleba, that the United States condemns these actions “in the strongest possible terms.”
At an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council late Monday, several countries criticized Russia, saying the move amounted to a violation of the UN Charter and an assault on Ukraine’s sovereignty. Although the meeting ended without action, Linda Thomas Greenfield, the US ambassador to the United Nations, said council members had “sent a unified message – that Russia should not start a war”.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in a televised statement on Monday, urged Ukraine’s allies to take immediate action and called on the Ukrainian people to remain calm.
“We are on our land,” he said. “We are not afraid of anything or anyone.”
On Tuesday, Mr. Reznikov, the defense minister, reiterated the country’s position, saying that the Kremlin did not recognize the two breakaway regions, but rather acknowledged its “aggression against Ukraine”.
“We are ready and able to defend ourselves and our sovereignty,” he said. on Twitter. “The world cannot be silent. Sanctions? Another scratch on the wall? The new Berlin Wall?”
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