Putin Orders Military “Peacekeeping” Operation In Ukrainian Territory

Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered the deployment of the Russian military as “peacekeepers” to parts of eastern Ukraine currently under the control of Russian-backed separatists, as part of decrees formally recognizing the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic as independent states.

Putin signed the decrees on Monday in the presence of the leaders of the two breakaway regions, following a convening of Russia’s security council, as well as an hour-long televised address which was squarely aimed at the Russian people. In the wide-ranging speech, Putin said that Ukraine did not have a historical basis for self-determination, claiming that its eastern regions were “ancient Russian lands”, among many that should never have been given up during the breakup of the Soviet Union. Putin went on to allege without proof that Ukraine wanted to develop nuclear weapons, and repeated previous evidence-free claims by Moscow that a “genocide” was going on in eastern Ukraine.

Ominously, Putin threatened a response to what he deemed to be Ukrainian aggression against the separatist-controlled territories. The threat follows a series of allegations from separatists and the Russian military earlier on Monday of Ukrainian attacks, including a self-contradicting account of a purported Ukrainian armored vehicle intrusion into Ukraine that saw the “release” of helmet camera footage of wheeled armored vehicles completely different from the infantry fighting vehicles claimed to be destroyed by the Russian military.

Russian recognition of the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics has met with widespread Western condemnation, with European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen calling the act a “blatant violation of international law as well as of the Minsk agreements” in a joint statement.

The joint statement added that the European Union will be imposing sanctions against those involved in the coming days. The White House has also announced President Joe Biden’s signing of an executive order that would “prohibit new investment, trade, and financing by US persons to, from, or in the so-called DNR and LNR regions of Ukraine”, as well as providing authority for additional sanctions on any individuals found to be operating in those regions, stressing that the measure was separate from sanction packages that would be imposed in the event of an invasion of Ukraine.

The United Kingdom has also announced that it will be revealing a sanctions package in response to the declaration on Tuesday. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said that the act was done in “flagrant disregard” of Russian commitments to the Minsk Agreements in her condemnation. “This step represents a further attack on Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, signals an end to the Minsk process and is a violation to the UN Charter. It demonstrates Russia’s decision to choose a path of confrontation over dialogue”.

French President Emmanuel Macron has called for an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council alongside European sanctions, shortly after UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterrez condemned the Russian move as a violation of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine that was “inconsistent” with the principles of the Charter of the United Nations. In a statement released by spokesperson Stephane Dujarric, the Secretary-General reiterated that the United Nations was “fully supportive of the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine, within its internationally recognized borders”. A meeting of the UN Security Council will reportedly be convened at 2100 EST.