US President Joe Biden denounced the green light Tuesday from the Russian parliament for a military operation in Ukraine as the “beginning of an invasion” of the country, unveiling the first sanctions against Moscow, like its Western partners.
Fear of a military escalation in Ukraine, at the gates of which, according to Washington, 150,000 Russian soldiers are deployed, has reached its peak since Vladimir Putin recognized on Monday the independence of the separatist entities in Lugansk and Donetsk located in. east of this country.
In his address to the nation, 24 hours after the important decision made by his Russian counterpart, Joe Biden said that the Russian president is “developing justifications to go much further.” But, he added, “there is still plenty of time to avoid the worst.”
In Moscow, Deputy Defense Minister Nikolai Pankov read out before the Senate a request from the Russian President to deploy forces in the Donetsk and Lugansk entities, on the understanding that “a (Ukrainian) army of 60,000 men and heavy armor” would be ready to attack.
Having obtained the approval of elected officials, Putin once again denounced the violations committed by Kiev, according to him, against the Donbass separatists.
He questioned the timetable for sending armed forces, calling for the “disarmament” of Ukraine, which would be “better” to abandon his ambition to join NATO to choose “neutrality”.
He said: “I did not say that our soldiers would go there now (…) It will depend, they say, on the situation on the ground.” Immediately after that, Russian diplomacy announced the forthcoming evacuation of its diplomats from Ukraine.
Mr. Putin also demanded the separatists all administrative districts of Lugansk and Donetsk, the area of \u200b\u200bwhich greatly exceeds the area of \u200b\u200bthe territory under their control. He referred to hypothetical “negotiations” between Kiev and pro-Russian forces.
Russian intervention would be legally justified by the ratification on Tuesday of mutual assistance agreements, particularly at the military level. Moscow also established diplomatic relations with the two regions.
– First penalties –
NATO expects a “massive attack” from Russia in Ukraine, announced in this context its Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg.
Without waiting, the West imposed the first sanctions in response to the separatists’ admission that Kiev has been fighting for eight years, a conflict that has claimed more than 14,000 lives.
The most dramatic measure was announced by Berlin, which froze the massive Nord Stream II gas pipeline project, which was to bring more Russian gas to Germany.
At the White House, Biden announced a “first batch” of sanctions aimed at preventing Moscow from raising Western money to pay off its sovereign debt.
It will also target Russian banks and certain “elites” of the country.
His chief of diplomacy, Josep Borrell, confirmed that the European Union had adopted a package of sanctions that “will hurt Russia very much.”
And British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the imposition of sanctions targeting three oligarchs close to the Kremlin and five Russian banks, which is the minimum measure for London, the financial stronghold of the great Russian fortunes.
He also said he is against international matches in Russia, such as the UEFA Champions League final scheduled for the end of May in Saint Petersburg.
These measures are still modest for the time being compared to those promised in the event of a major invasion.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, whose country on Tuesday demanded “weapons” and guarantees over its EU membership, said he was now considering severing diplomatic ties with Moscow.
Kiev accused him of wanting to “revive the Soviet Union”, Putin on the contrary defended himself from seeking to “remake an empire.”
– ” no fear ” –
The Russian president, who has imposed the tempo from the start, maintains the ambiguity of his intentions and has several options before him: invade all of Ukraine, expand the territory under the control of separatists, or wrest a new negotiating status quo.
Because occupation can be costly in a hostile country, and Russia wants to get NATO to withdraw in Eastern Europe and put an end to its expansion policy. The requirements have so far been rejected.
For his part, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov warned, on Tuesday, of “difficult trials” and losses awaiting Ukraine.
Overnight, President Zelensky for his part asserted that Ukrainians were “not afraid of anything or anyone” and would not concede “one piece of the country”.
On the front line, shootings were going on with the separatists.
Kiev denies any hostile act, contrary to Moscow’s allegations, accusing its opponents of spreading false information aimed at trying to justify the intervention.
In Chastia, residents of this small town near separatist areas were cleaning up the damage caused by the shells that had fallen the night before on a residential area on Tuesday.
Valentina Chmatkova, 59, was asleep when the projectiles exploded, blowing out the windows of her one-bedroom apartment. We didn’t expect that. We did not think that Ukraine and Russia would not reach an agreement in the end.”
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