The Russo-Ukrainian crisis, which has been simmering for weeks, appears to have reached a new milestone this Monday after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian troops to Eastern Ukraine as a “peacekeeping operation,” this decision comes after Putin recognized the independence of the Donetsk and Luhansk, the separatist regions that are partly dominated by pro-Russia militias since 2014, during a televised speech, moments after Putin informed President Macron and Chancellor Scholz of the decision.
During his televised speech, Putin doubled down on his opinion that Ukraine has always been part of Russia, saying that the existence of Ukraine was a “creation of Russia” and that Ukraine was owed its creation to Vladimir Lenin. Putin also outlined a long list of grievances against the Ukrainian government, arguing that Kyiv is preparing a conflict against Russia with the support of Western countries, even accusing Ukraine of wanting to develop nuclear weapons to threaten Russia.
Just a few hours after Putin recognized the independence of the Eastern breakaway regions, he ordered his armed forces to enter Donest and Luhansk, as part of a “peacekeeping operation” against alleged Ukrainian aggression. It is unknown if Russia would just limit itself to the territories controlled by the separatists, if the Kremlin would push Ukrainians out of the rest of the regions, or if Putin will launch a larger invasion against Ukraine with the rest of the troops he has amassed in the borders.
Russia invades Eastern Ukraine, unclear if the Kremlin would move further west.
The latest move by Putin adds more confusion to an already complicated crisis as the decision comes just one day after President Biden and Putin announced they agreed “in principle” with Macron’s proposal of a potential summit between both leaders in Ukraine. However, the Kremlin quickly announced that such a summit has yet to be confirmed, and on Monday the separatist leaders requested the Kremlin to recognize them as independent countries after days of constant shelling in the breakaway regions.
Despite Sunday’s announcement on a potential summit between Biden and Putin, the signs on the ground have turned very ominous over the last few days. Last week, Belarus announced that Russian troops will remain indefinitely in its territory, a complete reversal of last week’s announcement that Russian soldiers would leave the Eastern European country after the exercises. Belarus shares a border with Ukraine, and Russian troops would be able to launch an attack towards Kyiv from there. Furthermore, the alleged withdrawal of some troops from Crimea has yet to materialize as there still are 150,000 troops near the border with Ukraine according to Western intelligence.
Ukrainian president Volodmir Zelensky called for a meeting of his National Security and Defense Council and has held consultations with France’s Macron and Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz in response to Putin’s moves. The West has promised swift economic sanctions against Russia if Putin decides to invade Ukrainian territory, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said during the Munich Security Conference this weekend that the UK would cut access of financial resources to Russian companies, and the EU announced they would also sanction Moscow if Putin recognizes the sovereignty of the two breakaway regions in Eastern Ukraine.
President Zelenski also had a phone call with President Biden earlier this Monday, where the Americapresdient reaffirmed his support to the integrity of Ukraine, condemned Russia’s decision to recognize the independence of the separatist regions, and promised that America and the West would respond with sanctions to any “further Russian agression against Ukraine.”
Russia and Ukraine have already been involved in a low-intensity conflict since 2014 when thousands of Ukrainians deposed the pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovich at the “Euromaidan” revolution. Soon after that, which the Kremlin considers being a movement organized and financed by Western intelligence agencies, Moscow annexed the Crimean peninsula and then was engaged in a proxy war against Kyiv as pro-Russian separatists movements in Donetsk and Luhansk started an armed rebellion.
Western countries have been warning the world of a potential Russian invasion of Ukraine for months, and President Biden even said this weekend that he thought Putin had already made a decision to invade Ukraine. Putin’s newest announcement adds fuel to the fire, as the world waits both for how will the West react to this recognition and if Putin will use the large forces he has amassed at the border to enforce the independence of both breakaway regions.