New Delhi: In a definite acceleration of the ongoing Ukraine crisis, Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday (local time) recognised two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine as independent, and ordered the Russian Army to launch what Moscow called a “peacekeeping operation” in the area.
Several Western nations had repeatedly warned Russia against recognising the eastern Ukraine rebels, and Russia’s latest actions have effectively ended a fragile peace agreement regulating the conflict. The United Nations Security Council held an emergency meeting today at the request of Ukraine, the United States, several European nations and Mexico, in which India participated too.
Calling for a de-escalation of the Ukraine crisis, the Indian representative at the meeting said, “We can’t afford a military escalation. We call for restraint on all sides. We’re convinced that this issue can only be resolved through diplomatic dialogue.”
Meanwhile, the US has announced financial sanctions against the rebel territories recognised by Russia. “I have signed an Executive Order to deny Russia the chance to profit from its blatant violations of international law. We are continuing to closely consult with allies and partners, including Ukraine, on next steps,” US President Joe Biden said. The United States also said it will impose two sanctions on Russia tomorrow.
On Monday, Putin, joined by Russia-backed separatist leaders, signed a decree recognising the independence of two Ukrainian breakaway regions – the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic and the Lugansk People’s Republic – along with agreements on cooperation and friendship. In a lengthy and fiery televised address, Putin described Ukraine as an integral part of Russia’s history and said eastern Ukraine was ancient Russian land.
The Russian President delved into history as far back as the Ottoman Empire (founded in 1299 AD) and as recent as the tensions over the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation’s (NATO) eastward expansion – a major irritant for Moscow in the present crisis. “I deem it necessary to make a decision that should have been made a long time ago – to immediately recognise the independence and sovereignty of the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Lugansk People’s Republic,” Putin said.
With this decision, Putin has chosen to ignore Western warnings that such a step would be illegal, end peace negotiations, and trigger sanctions. There was no information on the size of the force the Russian President has despatched, but the decree said Russia now had the right to build military bases in Donetsk and Lugansk.
According to some US intelligence reports, Russia has massed over 1,50,000 troops in the region, including the separatist forces in the breakaway regions, and could invade Ukraine within days.