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[BREAKING] Putin Escalates Ukraine Situation By Formally Recognizing Separatist Territories; POTUS Issues New Sanctions

[BREAKING] Putin Escalates Ukraine Situation By Formally Recognizing Separatist Territories; POTUS Issues New Sanctions

Russia’s Vladimir Putin moved quickly on Monday to recognize the independence of separatist regions in eastern Ukraine, framing his show of defiance against the West in a series of nationally televised appearances that came amid Western fears of Russian invasion in Ukraine. The carefully scripted Kremlin announcement flew in the face of European efforts for a diplomatic solution to the escalating crisis, which has brought East-West relations to a new low and jeopardized trade. U.S., British, and EU officials called it “a breach of international law” and announced new sanctions as a result.

Immediately after the pro-Russian leaders of Ukraine’s separatist “people’s republics” were shown on Russian TV pleading with Putin to acknowledge them as independent states, Putin chaired a Kremlin meeting Monday in which a lineup of senior Russian officials all backed the move. The recognition of the rebel regions came as over 150,000 Russian troops have surrounded Ukraine from three sides in what the U.S. and its allies saw as a sign of an imminent invasion. The U.S. has warned that Moscow could try to create the pretext for attacking Ukraine with false-flag attacks in the volatile rebel east or other similar action, and will enact new sanctions

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said President Joe Biden “will soon issue an Executive Order that will prohibit new investment, trade, and financing” in the regions, or on anyone “determined to operate in those areas of Ukraine.” She said those measures would be separate from tougher sanctions the U.S. is preparing in case of a Russian invasion.

The quick move by Putin represents a sharp change of course for the Kremlin, which in the past hoped to use a 2015 peace agreement brokered by France and Germany to have Ukraine’s rebel regions gain more power inside the country to stymie its bid for NATO membership. The strategy didn’t work, because most Ukrainians resented the deal as a betrayal of national interests and its implementation has stalled.

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French President Emmanuel Macron condemned the Russian decision and called for an immediate UN Security Council meeting and “targeted European sanctions.” With an estimated 150,000 Russian troops massed on three sides of Ukraine, the U.S. has warned that Moscow has already decided to invade. Still, President Biden and Putin tentatively agreed to a meeting brokered by Macron in a last-ditch effort to avoid war.

[This is a breaking and developing story, please check back for updates]

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