Germany PULLS PLUG on Nord Stream 2 as Biden told to get tougher
Germany PULLS PLUG on Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline as pressure builds on Biden to get tougher on Putin: President will reveal sanctions TODAY as Congress urges him to target oligarchs and Russia moves more troops into contested areas
- German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced Tuesday that he is halting the process of certifying the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline from Russia
- Russian tanks have rolled into Donetsk and Luhansk after Putin ordered ‘peacekeepers’ into the regions
- Putin last night officially recognized the two areas of Ukraine as independent regions in a press conference
- Biden late last night imposed sanctions against the two breakaway regions of Eastern Ukraine amid the move
- But stopped short of issuing full-blown sanctions against Russia as Western allies deliberate their response
- British authorities meanwhile have announced they will reveal the scale of their sanctions later today
- UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid this morning declared on national television that ‘the invasion has begun’
- Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed a ‘barrage of sanctions’ will be revealed this afternoon
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced in a Tuesday press conference (pictured) that he’s halting certifications of the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline from Russia after Putin declared two regions in Eastern Ukraine ‘independent states’ and moved forces onto Ukrainian soil Monday night
Germany finally halted certification of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered troops into Eastern Ukraine and declared regions of the country ‘independent republics.’
‘The situation has fundamentally changed,’ German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced Tuesday morning in his stunning reversal of previously standing behind the project.
Scholz has long resisted including the Russia-to-Germany $10 billion natural gas pipeline as a potential sanction if Russia invaded Ukraine.
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted Tuesday: ‘I welcome Germany’s move to suspend the certification of Nord Stream 2. This is a morally, politically and practically correct step in the current circumstances. True leadership means tough decisions in difficult times. Germany’s move proves just that.’
For several years – spanning multiple administrations – the U.S. has viewed the pipeline as a Kremlin project that would increase Europe’s reliance on Russian gas.
President Joe Biden, however, allowed for construction to resume last year to help repair and strengthen U.S. relations with Germany.
Meanwhile, pressure is mounting on Biden to get tougher on Putin after he announced sanctions on Monday that both parties say doesn’t go far enough in punishing Russia for the invasion.
‘Mr. President, your Executive Order prohibiting new investment, trade, and financing by U.S. persons to, from, or in the so-called DNR and LNR regions of Ukraine is a FAR CRY from enough,’ GOP Representative Mark Green said Tuesday morning.
Jim Scuitto, a CNN national security who served as chief of staff to the U.S. Ambassador to China under Obama, said on Monday in regards to the sanctions announcement: ‘Is this really it?’
Biden signed an Executive Order on Monday prohibiting investments, trade and financing to, from or in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, which Putin says Russia now recognizes as independent states from Ukraine.
The president has not, however, imposed any sanctions directly on Russia or Putin and stopped far short of the ‘swift and decisive’ response that he had threatened and promised.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the sanctions were designed to prevent Russia ‘profiting off of this blatant violation of international law,’ before tweeting: ‘Russia’s move to recognize the ‘independence’ of so-called republics controlled by its own proxies is a predictable, shameful act.
‘We condemn them in the strongest possible terms and #StandWithUkraine, as I told Foreign Minister tonight.’
Biden’s Deputy National Security Advisor Jon Finer said Tuesday morning that the administration will announce more sanctions later in the day.
‘The U.S. is going to have a significant announcement of its own later today, including sanctions that we will impose in response to what Russia did yesterday,’ Finer previewed on MSNBC’s Morning Joe program.
Putin declared Monday that two regions in Eastern Ukraine are now recognized by Russia as independent states.
He called the two regions the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR). This move has paved the way for Russia to create pacts with the so-called states to assist in security in the area and get their forces on Ukrainian soil.
New videos show the Russian army’s so-called ‘peacekeeping’ force on the ground inside Ukraine, as the U.S. tries to convince European allies to impose tough sanctions.
Military vehicles were seen after night fell on Monday in Makiivka, in the so-called DPR, recognized hours earlier as an independent state by Putin.
The natural gas pipeline has long been opposed by the U.S. and some European nations who argued it would increase Europe’s reliance on Russian energy. President Joe Biden allowed the project to move forward to repair relations with Germany
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted: ‘True leadership means tough decisions in difficult times. Germany’s move proves just that’
Why gas and the Nord Stream 2 pipeline are so significant in Putin’s standoff with Ukraine
Nord Stream 2, the 750-mile gas pipeline connecting Russia and Germany, has been a source of fierce political debate both in Europe and the United States.
Republican Senator Ted Cruz has repeatedly called for sanctions on the operators because he feels it gives Moscow energy dominance in Europe, but Democrats have slapped down his attempts because they fear it would harm relations with Germany.
President Biden has now said he will stop the pipeline, which has not yet been turned on, from going ahead if Vladimir Putin invades Ukraine, putting it’s future in the balance.
Here is why the $11billion Nord Stream 2 is at the center of the Ukraine standoff, that Republicans have described as the ‘biggest threat to Europe since 1945’.
Why has gas and Nord Stream 2 become an issue in the Ukraine standoff?
Like in the United States, Europe is dealing with soaring gas prices. There are also splits over how to be more climate friendly and move off fossil fuel.
Europe gets almost 40 percent of its natural gas from Russia and will become more reliant on that supply during the winter months.
Nord Stream 2 would supply 26 million German homes when and if it is turned on. Building has been completed but it has not yet been certified by German’s energy regulator.
That has made it a hugely political topic in Germany.
What is at stake if the pipeline doesn’t come online, and how can it be used as leverage?
Ukraine believes it is missing out on $2billion in lucrative ‘transit’ fees because the pipeline bypasses Kiev.
The pipeline has been touted as one of the sanctions the West could threaten if Putin invades Ukraine and has been considered ‘leverage’ against Moscow.
For Russia, Nord Stream 2 would cut the costs of pumping its gas supplies through Ukraine. Sanctions or leaving it shut off would reduce Russia’s revenue.
The EU needs unanimity among 27 member states to impose sanctions. Germany’s voice would probably be decisive, but stopping Nord Stream 2 would need support from other member states, such as Austria and Bulgaria, who are highly dependent on Russian gas.
Russia’s natural gas exports to Germany via the Nord Stream pipeline crossing the Baltic Sea totalled 59.2 billion cubic metres (bcm) in 2021, its operator said on Monday, in line with record volumes a year earlier.
Moscow hopes to double the route with the recently finished Nord Stream 2 pipeline which requires EU and German regulatory approval to begin operations.
The current pipeline already accounts for around a third of Russia’s gas exports to Europe.
Volumes last year topped the pipeline’s annual nameplate capacity of 55 bcm. Russian gas exporter Gazprom has said the pipeline is able to transport more thanks to some technological peculiarities.
The West has accused Russia of withholding gas exports to Europe recently in order to drive up prices and pressure regulators to approve Nord Stream 2. Russia and Gazprom have denied this.
Will Russia cut off gas supplies if it invades?
No one knows for sure, but a complete shutoff is seen as unlikely, because it would be mutually destructive.
Russian officials have not signaled they would consider cutting supplies in the case of new sanctions. Moscow relies on energy exports, and though it just signed a gas deal with China, Europe is a key source of revenue.
Europe is likewise dependent on Russia, so any Western sanctions would likely avoid directly targeting Russian energy supplies.
More likely, experts say, would be Russia withholding gas sent through pipelines crossing Ukraine. Russia pumped 175 billion cubic meters of gas into Europe last year, nearly a quarter of it through those pipelines, according to S&P Global Platts. That would leave pipelines under the Baltic Sea and through Poland still operating.
‘I think in the event of even a less severe Russian attack against Ukraine, the Russians are almost certain to cut off gas transiting Ukraine on the way to Germany,’ said former U.S. diplomat Dan Fried, who as State Department coordinator for sanctions policy helped craft 2014 measures against Russia when it invaded and annexed Ukraine´s Crimea peninsula.
Russia could then offer to make up the lost gas if Germany approves the contentious new Nord Stream 2 pipeline, whose operators could face potential U.S. sanctions even though a recent vote to that effect failed.
U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Sunday on NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’ that the Biden administration has coordinated with its allies and that ‘if Russia invades Ukraine, one way or another, Nord Stream 2 will not move forward.’
Interrupting gas supplies beyond the Ukrainian pipelines is less likely: ‘If they push it too far, they’re going to make a breach with Europe irreparable, and they have to sell the oil and gas someplace,’ Fried said.
Other footage showed armored vehicles at other locations in the DPR and neighboring LPR, also recognized by the Kremlin.
No insignia were visible on the vehicles, but there is little doubt they are Russian forces deployed on Putin’s orders.
At the same time, Ukraine said heavy shelling broke out along nearly all 250 miles of its frontline with the breakaway provinces, leaving two of its soldiers dead and 12 injured in a major escalation in violence.
Videos showed pro-Russian separatists lighting celebratory fireworks and waving Russian flags in Donetsk city following Putin’s announcement of recognition.
The celebrations came as Biden issued an executive order banning U.S. investment or trade with the two regions.
The State Department also ordered its remaining staff to leave Ukraine for the safety of Poland.
Biden was on Monday night trying to get European allies to follow him in imposing sanctions.
‘Clearly, the White House is talking to the Europeans,’ said Bill Taylor, former US ambassador to Ukraine, on CNN – suggesting the administration is holding off on tougher sanctions on Russia for the moment in order to get European partners on board.
A senior US official earlier declined to characterize 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.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that ‘the first barrage of UK economic sanctions against Russia’ will be revealed today after Putin ‘completely tore up international law.’
After chairing an early morning emergency meeting of top ministers, Johnson told reporters: ‘This is I should stress just the first barrage of UK economic sanctions against Russia because we expect I’m afraid that there is more Russian irrational behavior to come.
‘I’m afraid all the evidence is that President Putin is indeed bent on a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the overrunning, the subjugation of an independent, sovereign European country and I think, let’s be absolutely clear, that will be absolutely catastrophic.’
Johnson said that Putin continues down on the path to ‘encircling Kyiv itself, which is what he seems to be proposing to do, capturing the Ukrainian capital’ then it is vital his efforts ‘should not succeed and that Putin should fail’.
It comes as UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid declared that Russia ‘invaded’ Ukraine.
‘We are waking up to a very dark day in Europe,’ Javid said early this morning on Sky News. ‘We have seen that [Putin] has recognized breakaway eastern regions in Ukraine and from the reports we can already tell that he has sent in tanks and troops. From that you can conclude that the invasion of Ukraine has begun.’
European Union foreign ministers are also set to meet today to decide what sanctions to impose, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said.
‘Clearly, the response will be in the form of sanctions,’ he declared, but added that the aim is not to impose the whole range of sanctions that the EU has prepared should Russia invade Ukraine, but rather to address the recognition of Donetsk and Luhansk as independent.
Asked whether Russia’s decision to send ‘peacekeepers’ in already amounts to an invasion, Borrell said, ‘I wouldn’t say that’s a fully fledged invasion, but Russian troops are on Ukrainian soil.’
The bloc has repeatedly said it is ready to impose ‘massive consequences’ on Russia’s economy if Moscow invades Ukraine but has also cautioned that, given the EU’s close energy and trade ties to Russia, it wants to ratchet up sanctions.
An EU official said the bloc’s 27 ambassadors would discuss a wider package of sanctions this afternoon, but warned there would be difficulty in agreeing on an approach.
‘There’s a whole escalation ladder, starting with Russian individuals and moving up to finance, trade, and eventually energy. So, technically, a lot is possible,’ the official told Reuters.
‘The problem politically is how to craft sanctions that all can agree to.’
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky also refused to recognize an ‘invasion’ in a 2am address to the nation, instead speaking of a ‘violation of sovereignty’ before adding: ‘We are not afraid of anyone or anything. We don’t owe anyone anything. And we won’t give anything to anyone.’
Zelensky has also demanded an immediate halt to the Nord Stream 2 project to pipe Russian natural gas to Germany via the Baltic Sea. The President called on Europe to introduce ‘immediate sanctions’ that include ‘the complete stop of Nord Stream 2’.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz appeared to oblige his request, announcing this morning that he was suspending the pipeline project and had asked the German regulator for the pipeline to halt the review process.
‘There can be no certification of the pipeline and without this certification, Nord Stream 2 cannot begin operating,’ he said.
Nord Stream 2 has long been a point of contention between Ukraine and Germany, with Ukrainian authorities pointing out that Germany cannot effectively impose sanctions on Russia while simultaneously securing a dedicated pipeline for Russian gas.
Scholz’s declaration that the project has been halted suggests that Germany is now willing to join Western allies in imposing strong sanctions.
In other major developments…
- Reports from US intelligence has suggested that Russia has a ‘kill list’ of Ukrainians to target if they invade and an attack could form two weeks of ‘terror’, with constant rocket attacks and street fighting
- British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Putin’s call to recognize the independence of the breakaway regions was a ‘very ill omen and a very dark sign’
- Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg also condemned Putin, accusing Russia of ‘trying to stage a pretext to invade Ukraine yet again’
- Fresh explosions were heard in Ukraine’s eastern regions with separatist leaders claiming a Ukrainian citizen was killed and that Kiev’s troops had crossed the border in armored vehicles
- Russia claimed that a Ukrainian shell hit its territory in the Rostov-on-Don region, destroying an unoccupied guard post
- Kiev has strongly denied shelling separatist or Russian positions Pro-Russian separatists said 60,000 people have now been evacuated from rebel-held areas to Russia
- Air France announced it is halting all flights to and from Kiev, following similar move by Germany’s Lufthansa
A tank is seen on Monday night driving through Donetsk, in eastern Ukraine
A military truck drives along a street in Donetsk after Putin ordered the deployment of Russian troops to two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine
Military vehicles are seen on the move on Monday night in Donetsk
A tank drives along a street in Donetsk on Monday night
Russian troops are seen entering Donetsk in the early hours of Tuesday morning, after Vladimir Putin said he was sending in ‘peacekeepers’
Joe Biden on Monday signed an executive order prohibiting trade and investment between US businesses and citizens and two breakaway regions of eastern Ukraine
Putin gave a televised address on Monday and explained he would sign a decree recognizing the Donetsk and Luhansk rebel regions in Eastern Ukraine as independent ‘republics’
Waving Russian flags, people celebrated the latest announcement in the streets in Donetsk, Ukraine on Monday, February 21
Prime Minister Boris Johnson stopped short of declaring that Putin had ordered an invasion, but said that ‘the first barrage of UK economic sanctions against Russia’ will be revealed today after Putin ‘completely tore up international law.’ After chairing an early morning emergency meeting of top ministers, Johnson told reporters: ‘This is I should stress just the first barrage of UK economic sanctions against Russia because we expect I’m afraid that there is more Russian irrational behavior to come’
President Volodymyr Zelensky addresses the nation on a live TV broadcast in Kievat 2am this morning in which he declared: ‘We are not afraid of anyone or anything. We don’t owe anyone anything. And we won’t give anything to anyone.’
What did Vladimir Putin say in his speech?
‘Those who embarked on the path of violence, bloodshed, lawlessness did not recognize and do not recognize any other solution to the Donbass issue, except for the military one. In this regard, I consider it necessary to take a long overdue decision to immediately recognize the independence and sovereignty of the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic. I ask the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation to support this decision, and then to ratify the treaties of friendship and mutual assistance with individual republics. These two documents will be prepared and signed in the very near future. And from those who seized and hold power in Kyiv, we demand an immediate cessation of hostilities.
‘Otherwise, all responsibility for the possible continuation of the bloodshed will be entirely on the conscience of the regime ruling on the territory of Ukraine. Announcing the decisions taken today, I am confident in the support of the citizens of Russia. Of all the patriotic forces of the country.’
ON UKRAINE MEMBERSHIP OF NATO
‘If Ukraine was to join NATO it would serve as a direct threat to the security of Russia.’
ON ORIGINS OF MODERN UKRAINE
‘Modern Ukraine was entirely created by Russia, more precisely, Bolshevik, communist Russia. This process began immediately after the revolution of 1917…
‘As a result of Bolshevik policy, Soviet Ukraine arose, which even today can with good reason be called ‘Vladimir Ilyich Lenin’s Ukraine’. He is its author and architect. This is fully confirmed by archive documents… And now grateful descendants have demolished monuments to Lenin in Ukraine. This is what they call decommunization. Do you want decommunization? Well, that suits us just fine. But it is unnecessary, as they say, to stop halfway. We are ready to show you what real decommunization means for Ukraine.’
ON UKRAINIAN STATEHOOD
‘Ukraine never had a tradition of genuine statehood.’
ON BREAK-UP OF USSR
‘Russia assumed obligations to repay the entire Soviet debt in return for the newly independent states giving up part of their foreign assets. In 1994, such agreements were reached with Ukraine, but they were not ratified by Ukraine…
‘(Ukraine) preferred to act in such a way that in relations with Russia they had all the rights and advantages, but did not bear any obligations…
‘From the very first steps they began to build their statehood on the denial of everything that unites us. They tried to distort the consciousness, the historical memory of millions of people, entire generations living in Ukraine.’
ON NATO’S 2008 MEMBERSHIP PROMISE TO UKRAINE AND GEORGIA
‘Many European allies of the United States already perfectly understood all the risks of such a prospect, but were forced to come to terms with the will of their senior partner. The Americans simply used them to carry out a pronounced anti-Russian policy. A number of member states of the alliance are still very skeptical about the appearance of Ukraine in NATO.
‘At the same time, we are receiving a signal from some European capitals, saying what are you worried about, this will not happen literally tomorrow. Yes, in fact, our American partners are also talking about this. Well, we answer, if not tomorrow, so the day after tomorrow. What does this change in a historical perspective? Basically, nothing. Moreover, we know the position and words of the US leadership that active hostilities in eastern Ukraine do not exclude the possibility of this country joining NATO if it can meet the criteria of the North Atlantic alliance and defeat corruption. At the same time, they try to convince us over and over again that NATO is a peace-loving and purely defensive alliance, saying that there are no threats to Russia. Again they propose that we take them at their word. But we know the real value of such words.’
ON THREATS TO RUSSIA
‘We clearly understand that under such a scenario, the level of military threats to Russia will dramatically increase many times over. I pay special attention to the fact that the danger of a sudden strike against our country will increase many times over. Let me explain that US strategic planning documents contain the possibility of a so-called preemptive strike against enemy missile systems. And who is the main enemy for the US and NATO? We know that too. It’s Russia. In NATO documents, our country is officially and directly declared the main threat to North Atlantic security. And Ukraine will serve as a forward springboard for the strike. If our ancestors had heard about it, they probably would simply not have believed it. And today we don’t want to believe it, but it’s true.’
‘They are trying to blackmail us again. They are threatening us again with sanctions, which, by the way, I think they will introduce anyway as Russia’s sovereignty strengthens and the power of our armed forces grows. And a pretext for another sanctions attack will always be found or fabricated. Regardless of the situation in Ukraine. There is only one goal – to restrain the development of Russia. And they will do it, as they did before. Even without any formal pretext at all. Just because we exist, and we will never compromise our sovereignty, national interests and our values. I want to say clearly and directly that in the current situation, when our proposals for an equal dialogue on fundamental issues have actually remained unanswered by the United States and NATO, when the level of threats to our country is increasing significantly, Russia has every right to take retaliatory measures to ensure its own security. That is exactly what we will do.’
The United Nations Security Council held an emergency meeting in New York at 9pm on Monday evening – chaired by Russia, which is currently president of the Security Council.
‘President Putin is testing our international system’ and ‘seeing how far he can push us all,’ said Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US ambassador to the U.N.
The flurry of diplomatic activity came after Putin signed decrees declaring the so-called DPR and LPR as sovereign states.
He justified his decision in a history-laden, grievance-ridden, pre-recorded speech that blamed NATO for the current crisis and railed against the way the West had triggered collapse of the Soviet Union.
‘I consider it necessary to take a long-overdue decision: To immediately recognize the independence and sovereignty of Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic,’ he said.
He said America was ‘pumping’ in weapons to Ukraine and said accused Kiev of creating ‘weapons of mass destruction’.
Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte said Putin’s move puts ‘Kafka & Orwell to shame’.
She added: ‘What we witnessed tonight might seem surreal for democratic world. But the way we respond will define us for the generations to come.’
A senior Biden administration official said the speech was not just about Russia’s security. It was a speech that laid out a greater plan.
‘He made clear that he views Ukraine historically as part of Russia,’ he told reporters.
‘And he made a number of false claims about Ukraine’s intention that seems designed to excuse possible military action. This was a speech to the Russian people to justify war.’
The official said more sanctions will follow today.
The increased level of threat led the State Department to temporarily move its remaining diplomats out of Ukraine to Poland, Bloomberg reported.
They are expected to return later this week if an invasion is not launched.
Biden spent 35 minutes on a call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, promising a ‘swift and decisive’ response.
He also spoke to French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz as the Western allies coordinated their response.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said more measures will be taken if Russia further invades Ukraine.
‘We are continuing to closely consult with Allies and partners, including Ukraine, on next steps and on Russia’s ongoing escalation along the border with Ukraine,’ she wrote.
UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace this morning said: ‘It’s incredibly serious what’s happening in Ukraine.
‘Many of us were forewarning that President Putin already had an agenda – you heard that agenda in his speech last night.
‘This is a sovereign state which has now had some of its land effectively annexed from it.
‘This is a sovereign state, a democratic state in Europe. All of us in Europe should worry and not hesitate to take whatever action we need to to deter President Putin from undermining both Nato, but also Europe and, more importantly, our values.’
Putin’s recognition of the Donetsk and Luhansk rebel regions’ independence paves the way for the long-feared Russian invasion and effectively shatters the Minsk peace agreements.
It also opens the door for Russia to sign treaties with the ‘states’ and openly send troops and weapons there to defend them against Ukrainian ‘threats’.
US intelligence has warned for weeks that this would be the way Putin would go about trying to disguise his invasion of Ukraine.
‘We have anticipated a move like this from Russia and are ready to respond immediately,’ Psaki wrote in her Monday statement following Putin’s remarks.
Elsewhere, leaders in Asia have voiced support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and condemned the movement of tanks and troops into the breakaway provinces.
‘Ukraine’s sovereignty and territory must be respected,’ South Korean President Moon Jae-in said this morning.
‘A military clash against the wishes of the international community… would bring huge ramifications in the politics and economies of not only Europe, but to the whole world.’.
South Korea’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Choi Young-sam said diplomats were trying to persuade 63 of its nationals who currently remain in Ukraine to leave.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida meanwhile criticized Russia for violating Ukrainian territorial integrity and said his country would discuss possible ‘severe actions,’ including sanctions, with the international community.
Putin’s ‘actions are unacceptable, and we express our strong condemnation,’ Kishida told reporters today.
‘Japan is watching the development with grave concern.’
Japan has a separate territorial dispute with Moscow over four Russian-controlled northern islands taken at the end of World War II. The standoff has prevented the signing of a peace treaty between the two sides.
New Zealand Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta said there was no basis under international law for Putin to recognize the Ukrainian separatist regions.
‘We are concerned that this is a calculated act by President Putin to create a pretext for invasion, which would be a clear act of aggression. We again call for urgent diplomatic efforts to find a peaceful resolution,’ Mahuta said in a statement.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Russia should ‘unconditionally withdraw’ from Ukrainian territory and stop threatening its neighbors. Morrison said Russia’s actions were ‘unacceptable; it’s unprovoked, it’s unwarranted.’
‘It is important that like-minded countries who denounce this sort of behavior do stick together, and I can assure you that the moment that other countries put in place strong and severe sanctions on Russia, we will be in lockstep with them and we will be moving just as quickly,’ he said.
Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US ambassador to the United Nations, is pictured on Monday night at an emergency session of the Security Council
US ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield (C, bottom) speaks during an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council on the Ukraine crisis, in New York, February 21, 2022
Pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine celebrated on Monday evening as fireworks went off following Russian President Vladimir Putin signing a decree recognizing two Eastern Ukrainian regions as ‘independent republics’
Putin’s recognition of the Donetsk and Luhansk rebel regions’ independence paves the way for the long-feared Russian invasion. Pro-Russian residents in Donetsk celebrated independence with a fireworks show on Monday
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson also spoke with Zelensky, promising to pursue a diplomatic solution until the last possible second.
‘The Prime Minister told President Zelensky that he believed an invasion was a real possibility in the coming hours and days,’ Johnson’s office said in a statement afterwards.
Hopes of a diplomatic breakthrough increased a day earlier when the White House said Biden had agreed in principle to a summit with Putin.
That hope all but evaporated after the Russian president’s speech.
‘Our strong sense, based on everything that we are seeing on the ground in the areas around the Ukraine to the north, to the east, to the south, is that Russia is continuing to prepare for military action that could take place in the coming hours or days,’ said the official, adding that administration could not commit to a meeting when invasion now seemed imminent.
A bipartisan group of 21 lawmakers pledged on Monday to ‘work toward whatever emergency supplemental legislation will best support our NATO allies and the people of Ukraine.’
‘No matter what happens in the coming days, we must assure that the dictator Putin and his corrupt oligarchs pay a devastating price for their decisions,’ they wrote.
Zelensky said he discussed with Biden on Monday afternoon ‘the events of the last hours’.
‘We begin the meeting of the National Security and Defense Council,’ he posted, adding: ‘A conversation with [UK Prime Minister] Boris Johnson is also planned.’
The White House confirmed that Biden shared a 35-minute-long call with Zelensky but did not give details of the discussion.
Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff General Mark Milley, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken were all spotted arriving at the White House West Wing on Monday morning.
‘President Biden is meeting with his national security team at the White House today and is being regularly briefed on developments regarding Russia and Ukraine,’ a White House official confirmed.
The site of a car explosion outside a building of the representative office of the Lugansk People’s Republic in the Joint Centre for Control and Coordination (JCCC) on ceasefire
An armed man stands beside the site of the blast after Putin declared the breakaway region of Luhansk ‘independent’
American soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division start a fire in Poland, near the Ukrainian border, after they were deployed to back up NATO allies
Artillery is seen in the foreground to American armored vehicles in a camp in Przemysl, Poland, 3.7 miles from the Ukrainian border during the standoff with Putin
Members of the 82nd Airborne Division, deployed to Poland, walks past a fleet of their vehicles in Eastern Europe
The White House announced Monday President Joe Biden will sign an Executive Order issuing economic sanctions on the two regions Russia just declared it recognizes as independent ‘republics’ in Eastern Ukraine
Servicemen attend joint exercises of the armed forces of Russia and Belarus
The White House is warning of a high scale of ‘brutality’ and ‘extreme violence’ Russians will have on Ukrainians – civilian and military – if they invade. Here US troops load equipment onto vehicles in Rzeszow, Poland on Saturday, February 19
President Joe Biden deployed a few thousand troops from the 82nd and 18th Airborne Corps to assist in Eastern Europe
US troops load equipment onto vehicles in Poland on Saturday
How Putin’s recognition of breakaway republics has ‘dangerous parallels’ to Nazi Germany’s actions before WWII
Vladimir Putin’s decision to recognise two breakaway republics in eastern Ukraine has ‘dangerous parallels’ to Nazi Germany’s actions prior to the Second World War, the Commons has heard.
Conservative MP Sir Bill Cash (Stone) said: ‘This evening Mr Putin has recognised the two separatist regions in Ukraine as independent states with dangerous parallels to Germany’s recognition of the Sudetenland in 1938.’
In the run-up to the Second World War, the Sudetenland, in which three million Germans lived, was part of what was then Czechoslovakia.
In the famous Munich Agreement of 1938 the region was ceded to Adolf Hitler in the hope that the concession would be enough to avoid Europe-wide armed conflict after months of tensions caused by Germany’s territorial ambitions.
Vladimir Putin’s decision to recognise two breakaway republics in eastern Ukraine has ‘dangerous parallels’ to Nazi Germany’s actions prior to the Second World War, the Commons has heard
Hitler had been planning an invasion of the territory prior to the signing of the agreement.
Britain’s then Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, who was the main driver of the agreement, famously told the British public after it was signed that he believed it was ‘peace in our time’.
Hitler, who had already absorbed Austria into Germany in March 1938, rode roughshod over the deal the following year by annexing all of Czechoslovakia in March and invading Poland on September 1.
It was that last act of aggression which was the final straw even for the peace-loving Chamberlain, who declared war on Germany on September 3.
France followed soon after, sparking a conflict that finally ended with Germany’s defeat in May 1945.
In the famous Munich Agreement of 1938 the region was ceded to Adolf Hitler in the hope that the concession would be enough to avoid Europe-wide armed conflict after months of tensions caused by Germany ‘s territorial ambitions. Above: Hitler (right) with the then British PM Neville Chamberlain (centre)
Biden also convened with his National Security Council on Sunday to discuss the latest developments in Eastern Europe as the west was still hoping for a diplomatic path forward at that point.
Putin assembled his inner circle on Monday as his top aides continue to advise him not to meet with Biden.
‘We’ve been negotiating for eight years,’ Putin said during the meeting, adding: ‘We’ve reached a dead end.’
The move fuels further tension with the West and narrows the diplomatic options available to avoid war, since it is an explicit rejection of a seven-year ceasefire mediated by France and Germany, still touted as the framework for any future negotiations on the wider crisis.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned in a statement last week that if Russia did take the very action that it did on Monday, it would ‘necessitate a swift and firm response from the United States in full coordination with our Allies and partners.’
He said it would further undermine the sovereignty of Ukraine, which was formerly a Soviet Bloc nation.
Biden met with his national security team Monday to discuss the situation, having been rebuffed earlier in the day over a summit with Putin.
France claimed to have brokered a meeting between the two leaders next week, which the White House agreed to ‘in principle’, before the Kremlin said talks were ‘premature’ and no ‘concrete’ plans had been made.
It is the second time that French President Emmanuel Macron, who has tried to position himself as Europe’s top security negotiator, has been embarrassed by Moscow – given guarantees which were revoked when he made them public.
Two weeks ago, Macron claimed Putin had agreed to stop military drills on Ukraine’s border, which Russia immediately denied.
The Kremlin said that upon hearing that Putin will sign the order to recognize the independence of eastern Ukraine’s separatist republics, Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz had ‘expressed disappointment’ over the decision in phone calls with the Russian President.
Earlier on Monday, Putin vowed to decide ‘today’ whether to recognize Ukraine’s eastern regions as independent states during remark at the close of an hours-long security council meeting that was broadcast on Russian TV.
During that meeting, the Kremlin’s top security officials were called up one by one and asked to lay out the case for war – seemingly aimed at persuading a skeptical public of the need to attack.
Having spent days staging what are widely believed to be false flag attacks on Ukrainian soil and blaming them on Kyiv, ministers presented the ‘evidence’ to Putin today claiming Russians in Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions are under threat of ‘genocide’, that no peace deal can save them and that he must intervene to save lives.
But in evidence that the entire spectacle was being staged – with the West warning a decision to invade has already been made – eagle-eyed viewers noticed that defense minister Sergei Shoigu’s watch was five hours behind Moscow time, suggesting the hearing was pre-recorded.
Ukraine’s Defense Minister Dymtro Kuleba, said following the Russian council meeting that ‘the entire world’ will watch what Putin does next and claimed ‘everyone realizes the consequences’ of Russia recognizing breakaway regions.
‘We all should calmly focus on de-escalation efforts, [there is] no other way,’ he tweeted.
The US has warned the United Nation’s Security Council that Moscow has prepared a list of targets for assassination and imprisonment in detention camps.
And now NBC News is reporting that two people familiar with discussions have detailed Biden administration officials discussions with the Ukrainian government for President Volodymyr Zelensky to leave Kyiv in the event of a Russian invasion.
Two Ukrainian soldiers died on Monday and three were wounded in a shelling attack in Zaitseve, a village 18 miles north of the rebel stronghold Donetsk, Ukraine’s national police said.
Germany’s Scholz, who had a phone call with Putin Monday, warned him that recognizing the eastern regions would be a ‘one-sided’ breach of peace negotiations and that he has a ‘responsibility’ to deescalate tensions by removing troops from the border.
National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said Russia plans to ‘crush’ Ukraine should it decide to go forward with a full-scale invasion.
‘We believe that any military operation of the size, scope and magnitude of what we believe the Russians are planning will be extremely violent,’ Sullivan told NBC News’ Today show on Monday morning.
‘It will cost the lives of Ukrainians and Russians, civilians and military personnel alike.
‘But we also have intelligence to suggest that there will be an even greater form of brutality, because this will not simply be some conventional war between two armies,’ he continued.
‘It will be a war waged by Russia on the Ukrainian people to repress them, to crush them, to harm them. And that is what we laid out in detail for the U.N. because we believe that the world must mobilize to counter this kind of Russian aggression should those tanks roll across the border as we anticipate they very well may do in the coming hours or days.’
There are now thought to be 190,000 Russian troops on the border of Ukraine comprising around three quarters of its conventional forces backed by 500 fighter jets, 50 heavy bombers, and dozens of attack helicopters.
Sullivan told Good Morning America earlier on Monday that Moscow is moving forward with plans to invade after snubbing Biden’s offer for a summit on the caveat that Russia stands down.
‘We never give up hope on diplomacy until the missiles fly or the tanks roll,’ he said. ‘But we have been working hard for months with our allies and partners to get Russia to sit down in a serious way at the table – even as recently as yesterday, the president has indicated his readiness to do that. Russia has not shown the same willingness on their side.’
‘The likelihood that there’s a diplomatic solution, given the movements – the troop movements of the Russians, is diminishing hour by hour,’ Sullivan added.
‘Unfortunately, we have called out at every stage of this what the Russians were going to do and they’re doing it.’
Putin convened a meeting with his top security officials Monday where he called them up one by one to lay out the case for recognizing eastern Ukrainian regions as independent republics – seemingly aimed at persuading a skeptical public of the need to attack
US intelligence has long warned that Russia would invade Ukraine by saying it needs to protect the interests of separatist ethnic Russians and Russian-speakers in the country. A handout image shows Russian cruiser Moskva conducting an artillery battle and destroying a mock enemy submarine in the Black Sea near Sevastopol, Crimea on February 18, 2022
Why Putin has the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk how they became separatist
(SOURCE: ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Amid fears of a Russian invasion of Ukraine, tensions have spiked in the country’s east, where Ukrainian forces are locked in a long conflict with Russia-backed separatists.
More than 14,000 people have been killed in nearly eight years of fighting, and a sharp increase in skirmishes in recent days have raising concerns that Moscow could use the situation as a pretext for an incursion. President Vladimir Putin said Monday he was mulling the recognition of the rebel regions´ independence, a move that would further ratchet up tensions with the West.
Here is a look at the rebel-controlled territories in eastern Ukraine:
SEPARATIST REBELLION IN THE EAST
When Ukraine’s Moscow-friendly president was driven from office by mass protests in February 2014, Russia responded by annexing Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula. It then threw its weight behind an insurgency in the mostly Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine region known as Donbas.
In April 2014, Russia-backed rebels seized government buildings in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, proclaimed the creation of ‘people’s republics’ and battled Ukrainian troops and volunteer battalions.
The following month, the separatist regions held a popular vote to declare independence and make a bid to become part of Russia. Moscow hasn’t accepted the motion, just used the regions as a tool to keep Ukraine in its orbit and prevent it from joining NATO.
Ukraine and the West accused Russia of backing the rebels with troops and weapons. Moscow denied that, saying any Russians who fought there were volunteers.
Amid ferocious battles involving tanks, heavy artillery and warplanes, Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014, killing all 298 people aboard. An international probe concluded that the passenger jet was downed by a Russia-supplied missile from the rebel-controlled territory in Ukraine. Moscow still denied any involvement.
The following month, the separatist regions held a popular vote to declare independence and make a bid to become part of Russia. Moscow hasn’t accepted the motion, just used the regions as a tool to keep Ukraine in its orbit and prevent it from joining NATO.
Ukraine and the West accused Russia of backing the rebels with troops and weapons. Moscow denied that, saying any Russians who fought there were volunteers.
PEACE AGREEMENTS FOR EASTERN UKRAINE
After a massive defeat of Ukrainian troops in August 2014, envoys from Kyiv, the rebels and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe signed a truce in the Belarusian capital of Minsk in September 2014.
The document envisaged an OSCE-observed cease-fire, a pullback of all foreign fighters, an exchange of prisoners and hostages, an amnesty for the rebels and a promise that separatist regions could have a degree of self-rule.
The deal quickly collapsed and large-scale fighting resumed, leading to another major defeat for Ukrainian forces at Debaltseve in January-February of 2015.
France and Germany brokered another peace agreement, which was signed in Minsk in February 2015 by representatives of Ukraine, Russia and the rebels. It envisaged a new cease-fire, a pullback of heavy weapons and a series of moves toward a political settlement. A declaration backing the deal was signed by the leaders of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany.
A FROZEN CONFLICT IN UKRAINE
The 2015 peace deal was a major diplomatic coup for the Kremlin, obliging Ukraine to grant special status to the separatist regions, allowing them to create their own police force and have a say in appointing local prosecutors and judges. It also envisaged that Ukraine could only regain control over the roughly 200-kilometer (125-mile) border with Russia in rebel regions after they get self-rule and hold OSCE-monitored local elections – balloting that would almost certainly keep pro-Moscow rebels in power there.
Many Ukrainians see it as a betrayal of national interests and its implementation has stalled.
The Minsk document helped end full-scale fighting, but the situation has remained tense and regular skirmishes have continued.
With the Minsk deal stalled, Moscow’s hope to use rebel regions to directly influence Ukraine’s politics has failed but the frozen conflict has drained Kyiv’s resources and effectively stymied its goal of joining NATO – which is enshrined in the Ukrainian constitution.
Moscow also has worked to secure its hold on the rebel regions by handing out more than 720,000 Russian passports to roughly one-fifth of their population of about 3.6 million. It has provided economic and financial assistance to the separatist territories, but the aid has been insufficient to alleviate the massive damage from fighting and shore up the economy. The Donbas region accounted for about 16% of Ukraine’s GDP before the conflict.
EFFORTS TO REVIVE PEACE DEAL
Amid soaring tensions over the Russian troop concentration near Ukraine, France and Germany embarked on renewed efforts to encourage compliance with the 2015 deal, in hopes that it could help defuse the current standoff.
Facing calls from Berlin and Paris for its implementation, Ukrainian officials have strengthened their criticism of the Minsk deal and warned that it could lead to the country’s demise. Two rounds of talks in Paris and Berlin between presidential envoys from Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany have yielded no progress.
The lower house of the Russian parliament, meanwhile, urged Putin last week to recognize the independence of Ukraine’s rebel regions.
Pictured: Biden convened a meeting of the National Security Council on Sunday to discuss the latest developments regarding Russia’s expected invasion of Ukraine
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