Feb 22, 2022 - World

EU reports Russian troops in eastern Ukraine as U.S. prepares sanctions

Russia's President Vladimir Putin addresses the nation on the recognition of independence of the Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republics.
Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses the nation on Monday. Photo: Alexei Nikolsky/Russian Presidential Press and Information Office/TASS via Getty Images

The U.S. and European Union were preparing on Tuesday to impose fresh sanctions on Russia, after President Vladimir Putin sent troops to two Kremlin-backed separatist regions in eastern Ukraine.

Driving the news: European officials reported that Russian troops had been spotted overnight moving into the so-called Donetsk People's Republic (DNR) and the Luhansk People's Republic (LNR), the independence of which Putin recognized on Monday to widespread international condemnation.

What they're saying: EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told reporters on Tuesday ahead of a ministerial forum in Paris to discuss imposing sanctions on Russia, "I would not say it is a fully fledged invasion, but Russian troops are on Ukrainian soil."

  • He stressed that this was because the EU regards the breakaway regions as part of Ukraine.
  • A senior U.S. official made similar comments on a briefing call Monday, telling reporters that Russian troops moving into the Donbas region "would not itself be a new step" because they had been there covertly since 2014.

The big picture: Almost immediately after announcing Russia would recognize the breakaway Ukrainian regions as independent on Monday night, Putin ordered Russian troops to enter eastern Ukraine to conduct "peacekeeping" operations.

  • Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, rejected this description as "nonsense" and accused Russia of "creating a pretext for war" during Monday night's United Nations Security Council meeting on the crisis.
  • President Biden signed an executive order to sanction the breakaway Ukrainian regions, and the White House said there would be new sanctions on Russia due to its "breach of international law and attack on Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity."

Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a televised address early Tuesday, "We will not give away anything to anyone."

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