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Biden will SANCTION Ukrainian regions Putin declared independent

Joe Biden will issue sanctions on the two regions declared ‘independent republics’ by Russian President Vladimir Putin Monday in his first real move toward full-scale invasion. 

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki assured that there will be further measures taken in coordination with U.S. allies and partners if Russia further invades Ukraine.

‘We are continuing to closely consult with Allies and partners, including Ukraine, on next steps and on Russia’s ongoing escalation along the border with Ukraine,’ she wrote.

Biden almost immediately called Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and convened a meeting of his National Security team after Vladimir Putin slammed the U.S. for ‘colonizing’ Ukraine and using it as a ‘puppet regime’ in remarks where he announced he would sign a decree recognizing two eastern regions of Ukraine as independent states. 

The president also hopped on a secure call with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz for approximately a half-an-hour shortly after Putin’s remarks.

Putin’s recognition of the Donetsk and Luhansk rebel regions’ independence paves the way for the long-feared Russian invasion and effectively shatters the Minsk peace agreements. It also opens the door for Russia to sign treaties with the ‘states’ and openly send troops and weapons there to defend them against Ukrainian ‘threats’.

U.S. intelligence has warned for weeks that this would be the way Putin would go about trying to disguise his invasion of Ukraine.

Putin lamented in his address Monday that America is ‘pumping’ in weapons to Ukraine and said this poses a threat to Russia because he claims Kyiv is creating ‘weapons of mass destruction’.

‘We have anticipated a move like this from Russia and are ready to respond immediately,’ Psaki wrote in her Monday statement following Putin’s remarks.

‘President Biden will soon issue an Executive Order that will prohibit new investment, trade, and financing by U.S. persons to, from, or in the so-called DNR and LNR regions of Ukraine,’ she detailed, adding ‘the Departments of State and Treasury will have additional details shortly.’

‘We will also soon announce additional measures related to today’s blatant violation of Russia’s international commitments,’ Psaki added.

A bipartisan group of 21 lawmakers pledged on Monday to ‘work toward whatever emergency supplemental legislation will best support our NATO allies and the people of Ukraine.’

‘No matter what happens in the coming days, we must assure that the dictator Putin and his corrupt oligarchs pay a devastating price for their decisions,’ they wrote.

Zelensky said he discussed with Biden on Monday afternoon ‘the events of the last hours’.

‘We begin the meeting of the National Security and Defense Council,’ he posted, adding: ‘A conversation with [UK Prime Minister] Boris Johnson is also planned.’

The White House confirmed that Biden did have a roughly 35-minutes call with Zelelnsky. 

Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff General Mark Milley, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken were all spotted arriving at the White House West Wing Monday morning.

‘President Biden is meeting with his national security team at the White House today and is being regularly briefed on developments regarding Russia and Ukraine,’ a White House official confirmed. 

The White House announced Monday President Joe Biden will sign an Executive Order issuing economic sanctions on the two regions Russia just declared it recognizes as independent ‘republics’ in Eastern Ukraine

Joe Biden

Volodymyr Zelensky

President Joe Biden had a 35-minute phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Monday and ‘discussed the events of the last hours’ after Russia took its first major step toward invasion

Russian President Vladimir Putin gave a televised address Monday and explained he would sign a decree recognizing the Donetsk and Luhansk rebel regions in Eastern Ukraine as independent 'republics'

Russian President Vladimir Putin gave a televised address Monday and explained he would sign a decree recognizing the Donetsk and Luhansk rebel regions in Eastern Ukraine as independent ‘republics’

Biden also convened with his National Security Council on Sunday to discuss the latest developments in Eastern Europe as the west was still hoping for a diplomatic path forward at that point.

Putin assembled his inner circle on Monday as his top aides continue to advise him not to meet with President Joe Biden. 

‘We’ve been negotiating for eight years,’ Putin said during the meeting, adding: ‘We’ve reached a dead end.’

The move fuels further tension with the West and narrows the diplomatic options available to avoid war, since it is an explicit rejection of a seven-year ceasefire mediated by France and Germany, still touted as the framework for any future negotiations on the wider crisis.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned in a statement last week that if Russia did take the very action that it did on Monday, it would ‘necessitate a swift and firm response from the United States in full coordination with our Allies and partners.’

He said it would further undermine the sovereignty of Ukraine, which was formerly a Soviet Bloc nation.

Biden met with his national security team Monday to discuss the situation, having been rebuffed earlier in the day over a summit with Putin.

France claimed to have brokered a meeting between the two leaders next week, which the White House agreed to ‘in principle’, before the Kremlin said talks were ‘premature’ and no ‘concrete’ plans had been made.

It is the second time that French President Emmanuel Macron, who has tried to position himself as Europe’s top security negotiator, has been embarrassed by Moscow – given guarantees which were revoked when he made them public.

Two weeks ago, Macron claimed Putin had agreed to stop military drills on Ukraine’s border, which Russia immediately denied.

The Kremlin said that upon hearing that Putin will sign the order to recognize the independence of eastern Ukraine’s separatist republics, Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz had ‘expressed disappointment’ over the decision in phone calls with the Russian President.

Putin convened a meeting with his top security officials Monday where he called them up one by one to lay out the case for recognizing eastern Ukrainian regions as independent republics ¿ seemingly aimed at persuading a skeptical public of the need to attack

Putin convened a meeting with his top security officials Monday where he called them up one by one to lay out the case for recognizing eastern Ukrainian regions as independent republics – seemingly aimed at persuading a skeptical public of the need to attack

U.S. intelligence has long warned that Russia would invade Ukraine by saying it needs to protect the interests of separatist ethnic Russians and Russian-speakers in the country. A handout image shows Russian cruiser Moskva  conducting an artillery battle and destroying a mock enemy submarine in the Black Sea near Sevastopol, Crimea on February 18, 2022

U.S. intelligence has long warned that Russia would invade Ukraine by saying it needs to protect the interests of separatist ethnic Russians and Russian-speakers in the country. A handout image shows Russian cruiser Moskva  conducting an artillery battle and destroying a mock enemy submarine in the Black Sea near Sevastopol, Crimea on February 18, 2022

Why Putin has the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk how they became separatist 

(SOURCE: ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Amid fears of a Russian invasion of Ukraine, tensions have spiked in the country’s east, where Ukrainian forces are locked in a long conflict with Russia-backed separatists.

More than 14,000 people have been killed in nearly eight years of fighting, and a sharp increase in skirmishes in recent days have raising concerns that Moscow could use the situation as a pretext for an incursion. President Vladimir Putin said Monday he was mulling the recognition of the rebel regions´ independence, a move that would further ratchet up tensions with the West.

Here is a look at the rebel-controlled territories in eastern Ukraine:

SEPARATIST REBELLION IN THE EAST

When Ukraine’s Moscow-friendly president was driven from office by mass protests in February 2014, Russia responded by annexing Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula. It then threw its weight behind an insurgency in the mostly Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine region known as Donbas.

In April 2014, Russia-backed rebels seized government buildings in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, proclaimed the creation of ‘people’s republics’ and battled Ukrainian troops and volunteer battalions.

The following month, the separatist regions held a popular vote to declare independence and make a bid to become part of Russia. Moscow hasn’t accepted the motion, just used the regions as a tool to keep Ukraine in its orbit and prevent it from joining NATO.

Ukraine and the West accused Russia of backing the rebels with troops and weapons. Moscow denied that, saying any Russians who fought there were volunteers.

Amid ferocious battles involving tanks, heavy artillery and warplanes, Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014, killing all 298 people aboard. An international probe concluded that the passenger jet was downed by a Russia-supplied missile from the rebel-controlled territory in Ukraine. Moscow still denied any involvement.

The following month, the separatist regions held a popular vote to declare independence and make a bid to become part of Russia. Moscow hasn’t accepted the motion, just used the regions as a tool to keep Ukraine in its orbit and prevent it from joining NATO.

Ukraine and the West accused Russia of backing the rebels with troops and weapons. Moscow denied that, saying any Russians who fought there were volunteers.

Amid ferocious battles involving tanks, heavy artillery and warplanes, Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014, killing all 298 people aboard. An international probe concluded that the passenger jet was downed by a Russia-supplied missile from the rebel-controlled territory in Ukraine. Moscow still denied any involvement.

PEACE AGREEMENTS FOR EASTERN UKRAINE

After a massive defeat of Ukrainian troops in August 2014, envoys from Kyiv, the rebels and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe signed a truce in the Belarusian capital of Minsk in September 2014.

The document envisaged an OSCE-observed cease-fire, a pullback of all foreign fighters, an exchange of prisoners and hostages, an amnesty for the rebels and a promise that separatist regions could have a degree of self-rule.

The deal quickly collapsed and large-scale fighting resumed, leading to another major defeat for Ukrainian forces at Debaltseve in January-February of 2015.

France and Germany brokered another peace agreement, which was signed in Minsk in February 2015 by representatives of Ukraine, Russia and the rebels. It envisaged a new cease-fire, a pullback of heavy weapons and a series of moves toward a political settlement. A declaration backing the deal was signed by the leaders of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany.

A FROZEN CONFLICT IN UKRAINE

The 2015 peace deal was a major diplomatic coup for the Kremlin, obliging Ukraine to grant special status to the separatist regions, allowing them to create their own police force and have a say in appointing local prosecutors and judges. It also envisaged that Ukraine could only regain control over the roughly 200-kilometer (125-mile) border with Russia in rebel regions after they get self-rule and hold OSCE-monitored local elections – balloting that would almost certainly keep pro-Moscow rebels in power there.

Many Ukrainians see it as a betrayal of national interests and its implementation has stalled.

The Minsk document helped end full-scale fighting, but the situation has remained tense and regular skirmishes have continued.

With the Minsk deal stalled, Moscow’s hope to use rebel regions to directly influence Ukraine’s politics has failed but the frozen conflict has drained Kyiv’s resources and effectively stymied its goal of joining NATO – which is enshrined in the Ukrainian constitution.

Moscow also has worked to secure its hold on the rebel regions by handing out more than 720,000 Russian passports to roughly one-fifth of their population of about 3.6 million. It has provided economic and financial assistance to the separatist territories, but the aid has been insufficient to alleviate the massive damage from fighting and shore up the economy. The Donbas region accounted for about 16% of Ukraine´s GDP before the conflict.

EFFORTS TO REVIVE PEACE DEAL

Amid soaring tensions over the Russian troop concentration near Ukraine, France and Germany embarked on renewed efforts to encourage compliance with the 2015 deal, in hopes that it could help defuse the current standoff.

Facing calls from Berlin and Paris for its implementation, Ukrainian officials have strengthened their criticism of the Minsk deal and warned that it could lead to the country’s demise. Two rounds of talks in Paris and Berlin between presidential envoys from Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany have yielded no progress.

The lower house of the Russian parliament, meanwhile, urged Putin last week to recognize the independence of Ukraine’s rebel regions.

PUTIN MULLS RECOGNITION OF REBEL REGIONS’ INDEPENDENCE

When intensive shelling erupted along the line of contact in Donetsk and Luhansk starting Thursday, Ukraine and the West accused Moscow of fomenting the tensions to create a pretext for an invasion. Russia, in turn, accused Ukraine of trying to reclaim the region by force, the claim that Kyiv strongly rejected.

On Friday, separatist leaders released video statements announcing the evacuation of civilians in the face of what they described as a Ukrainian ‘aggression.’ The data embedded in the video indicated that their statements had been pre-recorded two days earlier when the situation was still relatively calm, suggesting a deliberate plan to try to sever the regions from Ukraine.

The rebel chiefs put out new video statements Monday urging Putin to recognize their regions’ independence and the Russian leader responded quickly by convening a carefully orchestrated meeting of his Security Council where top officials all spoke in favor of the move.

If Putin recognizes the rebel-held territories’ independence, it would effectively shatter the Minsk peace agreements and further fuel tensions with the West. Russia could then sign treaties with the rebel territories in eastern Ukraine and openly send troops and weapons there.

 

Earlier on Monday, Putin vowed to decide ‘today’ whether to recognize Ukraine’s eastern regions as independent states during remark at the close of an hours-long security council meeting that was broadcast on Russian TV.

During that meeting, the Kremlin’s top security officials were called up one by one and asked to lay out the case for war – seemingly aimed at persuading a skeptical public of the need to attack.

Having spent days staging what are widely believed to be false flag attacks on Ukrainian soil and blaming them on Kyiv, ministers presented the ‘evidence’ to Putin today claiming Russians in Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions are under threat of ‘genocide’, that no peace deal can save them and that he must intervene to save lives.

But in evidence that the entire spectacle was being staged – with the West warning a decision to invade has already been made – eagle-eyed viewers noticed that defense minister Sergei Shoigu’s watch was five hours behind Moscow time, suggesting the hearing was pre-recorded.

All eyes will now turn to Ukraine’s border regions for evidence that Russian troops have crossed, after videos published earlier in the day showed tanks and armored vehicles in ‘battle formations’ – some of them less than three miles from the frontier.

Ukraine’s Defense Minister Dymtro Kuleba, said following the Russian council meeting that ‘the entire world’ will watch what Putin does next and claimed ‘everyone realizes the consequences’ of Russia recognizing breakaway regions.

‘We all should calmly focus on de-escalation efforts, [there is] no other way,’ he tweeted.

The U.S. has warned the United Nation’s Security Council that Moscow has prepared a list of targets for assassination and imprisonment in detention camps.

And now NBC News is reporting that two people familiar with discussions have detailed Biden administration officials discussions with the Ukrainian government for President Volodymyr Zelensky to leave Kyiv in the event of a Russian invasion.

Pictured: Biden convened a meeting of the National Security Council on Sunday to discuss the latest developments regarding Russia's expected invasion of Ukraine

Pictured: Biden convened a meeting of the National Security Council on Sunday to discuss the latest developments regarding Russia’s expected invasion of Ukraine

Two Ukrainian soldiers died on Monday and three were wounded in a shelling attack in Zaitseve, a village 18 miles north of the rebel stronghold Donetsk, Ukraine’s national police said.

Germany’s Scholz, who had a phone call with Putin Monday, warned him that recognizing the eastern regions would be a ‘one-sided’ breach of peace negotiations and that he has a ‘responsibility’ to deescalate tensions by removing troops from the border.

National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said Russia plans to ‘crush’ Ukraine should it decide to go forward with a full-scale invasion.

‘We believe that any military operation of the size, scope and magnitude of what we believe the Russians are planning will be extremely violent,’ Sullivan told NBC News’ Today show on Monday morning. ‘It will cost the lives of Ukrainians and Russians, civilians and military personnel alike.’

‘But we also have intelligence to suggest that there will be an even greater form of brutality, because this will not simply be some conventional war between two armies,’ he continued.

‘It will be a war waged by Russia on the Ukrainian people to repress them, to crush them, to harm them. And that is what we laid out in detail for the U.N. because we believe that the world must mobilize to counter this kind of Russian aggression should those tanks roll across the border as we anticipate they very well may do in the coming hours or days.’

There are now thought to be 190,000 Russian troops on the border of Ukraine comprising around three quarters of its conventional forces backed by 500 fighter jets, 50 heavy bombers, and dozens of attack helicopters.

Sullivan told Good Morning America earlier on Monday that Moscow is moving forward with plans to invade after snubbing Biden’s offer for a summit on the caveat that Russia stands down.

‘We never give up hope on diplomacy until the missiles fly or the tanks roll,’ he said. ‘But we have been working hard for months with our allies and partners to get Russia to sit down in a serious way at the table – even as recently as yesterday, the president has indicated his readiness to do that. Russia has not shown the same willingness on their side.’

‘The likelihood that there’s a diplomatic solution, given the movements – the troop movements of the Russians, is diminishing hour by hour,’ Sullivan added.

‘Unfortunately, we have called out at every stage of this what the Russians were going to do and they’re doing it.’


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