Putin orders Russian troops into Ukraine separatist regions to ‘maintain peace’

Putin orders Russian troops into Ukraine separatist regions to ‘maintain peace’

Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his defence ministry to despatch Russian peacekeepers to eastern Ukraine’s two breakaway regions, according to a decree.

The Kremlin confirmed the order, though it is not immediately clear whether or when troops would enter the country.

The announcement follows a day of fast-moving developments in which Mr Putin announced that he would sign a decree recognising the two breakaway regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, upping the ante in a crisis the West fears could unleash a war.

Putin announced his decision in phone calls to the leaders of Germany and France, who voiced disappointment, the Kremlin said in a readout of the calls.

Moscow’s move could torpedo a last-minute bid for a summit with US President Joe Biden to prevent Russia from invading Ukraine. 

The Rouble extended its losses as Putin spoke on the issue, falling 3.3% on the day to 79.83 per dollar.

The European Union warned of sanctions from the 27-nation bloc should Moscow annex or recognise the breakaway regions in the east of Ukraine and largely controlled by Russia-backed separatists.

“If there is annexation, there will be sanctions, and if there is recognition, I will put the sanctions on the table and the ministers will decide,” the EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said after a meeting of the bloc’s foreign ministers.

Ukrainian soldiers look out of a shelter in the center of the village of Novoluhanske, Luhansk region, Ukraine. Picture: AP Photo/Oleksandr Ratushniak

Responding to this evening’s developments, Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney voiced Ireland’s “unwavering” support for Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and its right to choose its own foreign and security policy path.

“The decision by the Russian Federation to proceed with the recognition of the non-government controlled areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts of Ukraine as independent entities contravenes international law, is a blatant violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, and marks a clear and unilateral breach of the Minsk agreements,” Mr Coveney said.

“Ireland supports a clear and strong EU response, including additional sanctions measures.”

‘A violation of international law’

European Commission President said Russia’s move to recognise Donetsk and Luhansk was a “blatant violation of international law.”

The recognition of the two separatist territories in #Ukraine is a blatant violation of international law, the territorial integrity of Ukraine and the #Minsk agreements.

The EU and its partners will react with unity, firmness and with determination in solidarity with Ukraine.

— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) February 21, 2022

Recognition of the rebel-held areas could provide a pretext for Russian troops to cross the border into those areas.

It will also narrow the diplomatic options to avoid war, since it is an explicit rejection of a seven-year-old ceasefire mediated by France and Germany, touted as the framework for future negotiations on the wider crisis.

Separately, Moscow said Ukrainian military saboteurs had tried to enter Russian territory in armed vehicles leading to five deaths, an accusation dismissed as “fake news” by Kyiv.

Both developments fit a pattern repeatedly predicted by Western governments, who accuse Russia of preparing to fabricate a pretext to invade by blaming Kyiv for attacks and relying on pleas for help from separatist proxies.

Hours earlier, French President Emmanuel Macron gave hope of a diplomatic solution, saying Putin and Biden had agreed in principle to meet.

But the Kremlin said there were no specific plans for a summit. The White House said Biden had accepted the meeting “in principle” but only “if an invasion hasn’t happened”.

US President Joe Biden. Picture: AP Photo/Alex Brandon

In Washington, President Joe Biden summoned his top security advisers. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and General Mark Milley, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, could be seen entering

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