|Photo taken on Monday shows a screen displaying Russian President Vladimir Putin speaking during a televised address to the nation in Moscow, Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin announced on Monday that he has signed a decree recognizing "the Lugansk People's Republic (LPR)" and "the Donetsk People's Republic (DPR)" as independent and sovereign states. — XINHUA/VNA Photo|
UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations regretted Russia's order to deploy troops into eastern Ukraine on a reported 'peacekeeping mission', the body's political affairs chief told an emergency Security Council meeting on Monday, warning that the risk of 'major conflict' was real and needed to be prevented.
Speaking at the last minute meeting over Ukraine, UN political affairs chief Rosemary DiCarlo reiterated that the United Nations was committed to the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine, within internationally recognised borders.
President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian troops into two Moscow-backed regions of Ukraine Monday, defying Western threats of sanctions and prompting an emergency UN Security Council meeting to try to avert war.
Russian President Vladimir Putin signed decrees at the ceremony in the Kremlin on recognising the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics.
Speaking in a televised address to the citizens earlier, Putin explained: "I believe it is necessary to take this long overdue decision. I immediately recognize the independence and sovereignty of the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Lugansk People’s Republic."
The Russian leader asked the Federal Assembly to back this decision and then ratify the treaties on friendship and mutual aid with both republics. While announcing this decision, the president voiced confidence about the support of Russian citizens and all patriotic forces in the country.
Later, Putin met with the DPR and LPR leaders, Denis Pushilin and Leonid Pasechnik, and signed with them the treaties on friendship, cooperation and mutual aid between Russia and both republics. The ceremony was held in the Kremlin’s St. Catherine Hall, which hosted the meeting of the Russian Security Council. At this meeting, the Security Council’s members called for recognizing the independence of the DPR and LPR.
Also in St. Catherine Hall, before inking the friendship treaties, Putin signed the decrees on recognizing the DPR and LPR, and congratulated both leaders.
At the emergency meeting of the Security Council, US ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield described as "nonsense" Putin's claims the troops being sent to eastern Ukraine were peacekeepers.
"We know what they really are," said the US envoy in an address to an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council.
Thomas-Greenfield said Putin's speech amounted to a "series of outrageous, false claims" that were aimed at "creating a pretext for war".
'We are on our own land'
As news of the late-night recognition hit the streets of Kyiv, many were in disbelief but said they were ready to defend their country if called on.
"I am very shocked," Artem Ivaschenko, a 22-year-old cook originally from Donetsk, said in the capital, calling the recognition the "scariest news" he had heard since he had fled the region eight years ago.
"I live here, I already lost a part of my homeland, it was taken away, so I will protect it."
Russia will now deploy troops with the support of separatist officials, with Ukraine forced to either accept the loss of a part of its territory or face an armed conflict against its vastly more powerful neighbour.
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky convened a meeting of his national security council and held telephone calls with several world leaders in a bid to shore up support.
"We expect clear support steps and effective support steps from our partners," he declared in a late night televised address, vowing that Kyiv was not afraid of anyone.
"It is very important to see now who is our true friend and partner, and who will continue to scare the Russian Federation with words," he said.
"We are on our own land."
|People take part in a protest 'Solidary with Ukraine' at the Freedom Square in Poznan, west-central Poland, on Monday. — PAP/VNA Photo|
In his address, Putin repeatedly suggested Ukraine was essentially part of Russia.
He accused Kyiv of persecuting Russian speakers and of preparing a "blitzkrieg" against the breakaway regions of Donetsk and Lugansk in Ukraine's east.
"As for those who seized and hold power in Kyiv, we demand an immediate end to their military operations," Putin said.
"Otherwise, all responsibility for the possible continuation of bloodshed will be fully on the conscience of the regime in power in Ukraine."
And he made clear the stakes were bigger than Ukraine, whose efforts to join NATO and the European Union have deeply angered Moscow.
"The use of Ukraine as an instrument of confrontation with our country poses a serious, very big threat to us," Putin said.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called Putin's move "a flagrant violation of the sovereignty and integrity of the Ukraine", with his foreign minister promising new sanctions on Russia.
EU chiefs Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel vowed the bloc "will react with sanctions against those involved in this illegal act".
The announcement came after weeks of tensions between Moscow and the West over Ukraine.
Western leaders had warned that Russia was planning to invade its pro-Western neighbour after massing more than 150,000 troops on its borders, a claim Moscow repeatedly denied.
China on Monday called for restraint by "all sides" to avoid further escalation in the Ukraine crisis, urging a diplomatic solution during an emergency United Nations Security Council meeting.
"All parties concerned must exercise restraint and avoid any action that may fuel tensions. We welcome and encourage every effort for a diplomatic solution," said Zhang Jun, China's ambassador to the UN.
Tensions then spiked this week after an outbreak of heavy shellfire on Ukraine's eastern frontline with the separatists and a series of reported incidents on the border with Russia.
The fear of conflict has sparked evacuations from the Ukrainian capital, with the United States late on Monday saying it was sending all of its diplomats remaining in the country to Poland out of security fears.
US to announce Russia sanctions
The United States said it will impose sanctions on Moscow on Tuesday, following an initially cautious response to President Putin's order for Russian troops to deploy in two Kremlin-backed separatist areas of Ukraine.
"We plan to announce new sanctions on Russia tomorrow in response to Moscow's decisions and actions today. We are coordinating with allies and partners on that announcement," a White House spokesperson said on Monday.
This came after President Joe Biden had already imposed limited sanctions on the two Russian-backed areas in eastern Ukraine's Donbass region that were earlier recognized as independent by Putin.
But a senior US official earlier declined to characterise whether Putin's order for Russian armed forces to conduct "peacekeeping" there counted as an actual invasion, which would trigger much wider and more severe Western sanctions against Moscow.
"We are going to assess what Russia's done," the official told reporters, stressing that Russian forces have already been deployed covertly in the separatist areas for eight years.
"Russian troops moving into Donbass would not be a new step," he said.
"We'll continue to pursue diplomacy until the tanks roll." AGENCIES