Russia-Ukraine live updates: Biden agrees ‘in principle’ to meet Putin as invasion threat looms

Russia-Ukraine live updates: Biden agrees ‘in principle’ to meet Putin as invasion threat looms

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed decrees ordering military forces into two separatist regions of Ukraine for “peacekeeping” purposes as Moscow recognized the breakaway regions’ independence Monday.

Putin signed a decree recognizing the areas — a move that Russia could use to justify an attack in those locations — and an agreement of cooperation with the heads of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic. The separatists do not control the entirety of their regions, and it was not clear Monday evening whether a military incursion could occur.

The Kremlin’s move was widely condemned at a late-night emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council. President Biden issued an executive order prohibiting U.S. investment and trade in the breakaway regions.

Here’s what to know

The United States has warned the United Nations that it has credible information showing that Moscow is compiling lists of Ukrainians “to be killed or sent to camps following a military occupation,” according to a letter obtained by The Washington Post.Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is expected to be in Paris on Friday to discuss the Ukrainian developments with European officials, according to French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.UNDERSTANDING THE RUSSIA-UKRAINE CONFLICT

Russian move condemned by several members at U.N. Security CouncilReturn to menu

Russia faced a sharp rebuke from several members of the U.N. Security Council on Monday as nations from Europe, Africa and North America criticized the Kremlin for recognizing breakaway regions of Ukraine and sending troops it characterizes as “peacekeepers.”

Criticism from countries during the evening emergency session appeared to irritate Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations, Vasily Nebenzya, who accused the Security Council in aggregate for misunderstanding the conflict. “Most of you did not find any place for the nearly 4 million residents of Donbas,” he said, referring to a region of eastern Ukraine that includes the separatist-controlled territories of Donetsk and Luhansk.

Ukraine’s ambassador to the United Nations, who requested the meeting, offered a defiant statement even as his country was surrounded by more than 150,000 Russian troops. “We are on our land. We are not afraid of anything or anyone. We owe nothing to anyone and we will not give away anything to anyone,” Sergiy Kyslytsya said. “There should be no doubt whatsoever.”

Some African nations, including Kenya and Ghana, criticized the Russian intervention and compared it to colonial aggression from centuries past.

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, also said Russia’s aggression belonged to another era. “Putin wants the world to travel back in time to a time before the United Nations — to a time when empires ruled the world,” she said. “Colleagues, President Putin is testing our international system.”

China and India took largely neutral positions, calling on both sides to listen to each other and act with restraint.

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Biden blocks U.S. trade, investment in breakaway areas of UkraineReturn to menu

President Biden signed an executive order Monday blocking trade and investment by Americans in two separatist enclaves of Ukraine after Moscow recognized the breakaway regions’ independence and announced that it was sending military forces to the area for “peacekeeping” purposes.

A White House statement said President Vladimir Putin’s action “contradicts Russia’s commitments under the Minsk agreements, refutes Russia’s claimed commitment to diplomacy, and undermines Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

The Donbas region in eastern Ukraine has been a flash point in the escalating crisis between Russia and Ukraine. Putin’s decision to recognize the two breakaway enclaves — where Moscow has backed rebel forces since 2014 — is a considerable escalation that Putin could use to justify an attack in those locations.

The order prohibits “new investment” by Americans, wherever they are located, in the separatist regions that call themselves the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic.

It also bars the “importation into the United States, directly or indirectly, of any goods, services, or technology from the covered regions.”

Foreign policy experts say the curbs probably won’t be sufficient on their own to deter Putin from further military action, and may just be a matter of buying time for the United States and its allies in the West to take the next step.

“It’s weak symbolism. It’s not strong enough,” said Daniel Fried, a sanctions expert at the Atlantic Council and a former U.S. ambassador to Poland. “I think they’re going to go beyond it. I think they have to.”

The White House said Monday that the executive order is “distinct from the swift and severe economic measures we are prepared to issue with Allies and partners in response to a further Russian invasion of Ukraine,” adding that the administration is “continuing to closely consult with Ukraine and with Allies and partners on next steps and urge Russia to immediately deescalate.”

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State Department pulls personnel out of UkraineReturn to menu

The State Department moved its personnel from Ukraine to Poland on Monday amid fears of Russia’s “plans for an invasion at any moment,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a news release.

Personnel had previously been moved from Kyiv, the capital, to Lviv, a major city in Ukraine’s west that is farther from the eastern Donbas region, where tensions escalated after Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday recognized separatist-led enclaves as independent.

The U.S. personnel will “spend the night” in Poland, Blinken said, because of security concerns.

Blinken also urged Americans in Ukraine to depart the country immediately because “there is a strong likelihood that any Russian military operations would severely restrict commercial air travel.” Several airlines have changed or canceled flights in the area in recent days.

Blinken said Americans remaining in the areas Russia designated as independent on Monday should “seek shelter in a hardened structure and monitor major news outlets for guidance on when it is safe to move” if Russia were to attack.

“We have stationed support teams near the Ukrainian border in Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, and Moldova to provide assistance to U.S. citizens, and have opened a Welcome Center for U.S. citizens in Poland,” Blinken said of resources available for Americans planning to leave Ukraine.

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White House wrestles with whether Russia has ‘invaded’ Ukraine Return to menu

The White House on Monday confronted the reality that its months-long effort to avert a Russian invasion of Ukraine probably would be futile as officials grasped for last-ditch ways to head off what one called “military action that could take place in the coming hours or days.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin spent the weekend effectively closing off one diplomatic path after another, suggesting ever more clearly that he would not be swayed by diplomacy or deterred by sanctions. And by announcing that he was recognizing two pro-Russian separatist regions of Ukraine and ordering troops into them, he forced the United States into an uneasy dilemma about whether that constituted an invasion.

The Biden administration sought to strike back at Russia’s aggressive action while stopping short of declaring that it had officially invaded Ukraine, which would have triggered the array of hard-hitting sanctions President Biden has been warning about for months.

Instead, amid meetings Monday with his national security advisers and calls with several foreign leaders, Biden and his team reiterated their grim assessment of the crisis and imposed a smaller set of sanctions prohibiting U.S. investment and trade specifically in the breakaway regions.

Administration officials said additional measures — including more sanctions — would be announced Tuesday, and emphasized that the newly announced sanctions are different from the much larger ones Biden has been threatening should Putin invade Ukraine.

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Turkey condemns Putin’s recognition of separatist enclavesReturn to menu

Turkey on Monday condemned Russia’s “violation of Ukraine’s political unity and territorial integrity” as the NATO member walks a fine line between backing Ukraine and Western allies while navigating a complicated relationship with Russia.

“We reiterate once again our commitment to the preservation of Ukraine’s political unity and territorial integrity and invite all concerned parties to act with common sense and abide by international law,” a statement by Turkey’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

Turkey maintains economic and military ties with Russia despite its alliances with Western powers. In recent weeks, Turkey has tried to balance its desire for cordial relations with Russia, its increasingly lucrative military partnership with Ukraine and its commitments to NATO.

On Feb. 3, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan traveled to Kyiv, where he signed a free-trade agreement and finalized a deal for Ukraine to manufacture Turkish armed drones. Before that, he attempted to host the Ukrainian and Russian leaders for a mediation meeting.

Turkey also has a history of siding with Russia.

When Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 — a major precursor to today’s tensions — Turkey refused to join the West in imposing sanctions on Moscow, despite Erdogan’s anger over a move that was seen as reducing Turkey’s influence in the Black Sea region.

Though Erdogan faces several domestic concerns — 2023 elections amid an economic crisis that Russia could exacerbate — his government’s message was clear when it came to its neighbor’s decision to recognize the separatist enclaves in Ukraine as independent.

“The Russian Federation’s decision is unacceptable and we reject it,” Turkey’s Monday statement read.

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‘No reason for chaotic actions,’ Zelensky tells UkraineReturn to menu

By David L. Stern8:45 p.m.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky gave a late night, emergency address on Feb. 22, after Russia recognized the two breakaway regions in east Ukraine. (AP)LVIV, Ukraine — President Volodymyr Zelensky told his countrymen that “we will give up nothing to no one” and that Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders “will stay that way, despite any statements or actions taken by the Russian Federation.”

Speaking in a video address that was posted on social media in the early hours of Tuesday, Zelensky emphasized that his government was still committed to a “diplomatic path” to resolve the crisis with Moscow.

But he also said Ukraine was prepared for any development and would defend itself if necessary.

“As soon as we see a change in the situation, as soon as we see an increase in risk, you will know about all this,” he said. “Now, there’s no reason for chaotic actions, and we will do our best to keep it that way.”

Zelensky characterized Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to recognize two breakaway enclaves as an effort to “legalize” Russian forces that have been fighting in eastern Ukraine since 2014. Russian officials have maintained that they were not involved in the fighting, which has killed close to 14,000 people. However, Ukrainian and Western officials, alongside independent analysts, say the Kremlin directs the separatists and fuels the war with troops and weapons.

Zelensky said Putin’s decision was a violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial sanctity, as well as a “unilateral exit” from the Minsk agreement — peace deals signed in 2014 and 2015 that created a framework for a resolution to the conflict.

On Tuesday, he called for a meeting of Russia, France, Germany and Ukraine — known as the “Normandy Four” — the main grouping in which Zelensky and Putin have met.

Zelensky said that he had spoken with the leaders of Britain, France, Germany and the United States and that he had a warning for Ukraine’s Western partners, from whom he said he expected “clear and effective steps of support.”

“It’s very important to see now who is our real friend and partner, and who continues to frighten the Russian Federation with words,” he said.

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Putin escalates crisis that threatens full-scale warReturn to menu

MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday recognized the independence of two Moscow-backed separatist regions in eastern Ukraine and ordered Russian forces onto their territory for “peacekeeping” purposes, a dramatic escalation in a crisis that is threatening a full-scale war.

Putin’s action — in direct defiance of U.S. and European warnings — was swiftly condemned by Washington and Brussels, with top officials promising sanctions in response to the recognition of the self-declared republics. Secretary of State Antony Blinken decried the recognition as “a clear attack on Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

But amid reports of Russian military machines already appearing in the breakaway territories late Monday, the White House stopped short of announcing the full-fledged sanctions that President Biden had said Russia would face in the event of an invasion.

Sonne and Nakashima reported from Washington.

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U.N. Security Council to hold emergency meeting on Ukraine crisisReturn to menu

The U.N. Security Council is set to hold a Kyiv-requested emergency meeting Monday night after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered troops to separatist regions in Ukraine.

The appeal to the United Nations marks a last-minute attempt to stave off a military conflict after Putin questioned Kyiv’s legitimacy in a televised address Monday.

Ukraine’s request was supported by Albania, Brazil, Britain, France, Ireland, Mexico, Norway and the United States, said an official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive diplomacy.

Ukraine’s ambassador to the United Nations, Sergiy Kyslytsya, formally requested the meeting in a letter that cited Russia’s recognition of Donetsk and Luhansk as independent enclaves; it cited Moscow’s “ongoing aggravation of the security situation around Ukraine” and threats to “international peace and security.”

The letter, obtained by The Washington Post, was addressed to Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations, Vassily Nebenzia, who holds the president of the rotating U.N. Security Council this month. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 9 p.m. Eastern time, an official said.

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Britain to announce new sanctions against RussiaReturn to menu

British Foreign Minister Liz Truss says the United Kingdom is prepared to bring new sanctions against Russia in response to its “breach of international law and attack on Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Tomorrow we will be announcing new sanctions on Russia in response to their breach of international law and attack on Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

— Liz Truss (@trussliz) February 21, 2022

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will lead an emergency committee meeting on Tuesday morning “to discuss the latest developments in Ukraine and to coordinate the UK response including agreeing to a significant package of sanctions to be introduced immediately,” according to a No. 10 Downing Street announcement. Johnson’s office also said Britain would “explore sending further defensive support to Ukraine, at the request of the Ukrainian Government.”

It remains unclear what the British sanctions will entail, but other Western leaders have followed suit in announcing theirs and warning that Putin’s orders are intended to prepare a Russian invasion of Ukraine.

In a statement, European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Tuesday that “the Union will react with sanctions against those involved in this illegal act.”

“This step is a blatant violation of international law as well as of the Minsk agreements,” the two leaders said, referring to the peace agreements brokered by France and Germany in 2014 and 2015 to end the conflict between Kyiv and the Russian-backed separatists in the contested Donbas region of Ukraine.

White House considers measures to stabilize gas prices if hostilities send costs upReturn to menu

White House aides are reviewing how the United States could respond if Russia curtails exports of global oil products amid hostilities over Ukraine, anticipating a potential spike in gas costs that could further raise prices domestically.

Moves being discussed by administration officials include another potential release of the U.S. government’s strategic oil reserves, said two people with knowledge of the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

Russia could respond to expanded sanctions by limiting sales of oil and other energy products to Europe and other parts of the world. That nation produces about 11 percent of the world’s oil supply, or roughly 10.5 million barrels per day, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

The conversations about U.S. oil reserves were described as preliminary as the Biden administration considers a broader set of options to insulate Americans from higher gas prices, the people said, with or without a conflict in Eastern Europe.

Blinken criticizes Putin’s ‘disregard’ for international lawReturn to menu

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday condemned Russia’s decision to officially recognize two breakaway enclaves of Ukraine.

In a statement issued just hours after President Vladimir Putin signed a declaration, Blinken said the move marked a “complete rejection of Russia’s commitments under the Minsk agreements,” the accords designed to end the separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine.

“States have an obligation not to recognize a new ‘state’ created through the threat or use of force, as well as an obligation not to disrupt another state’s borders,” he said. “Russia’s decision is yet another example of President Putin’s flagrant disrespect for international law and norms.”

Blinken, who is tentatively scheduled to meet with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, on Thursday, referred to President Biden’s plan to impose sanctions on individuals doing business in the breakaway regions. He said the planned step was not aimed at Ukrainian citizens and would permit humanitarian activities.

“We stand with our Ukrainian partners in strongly condemning President Putin’s announcement,” he said.

Biden discusses Putin’s actions with Ukrainian, French and German leaders, White House saysReturn to menu

President Biden condemned Russia’s declaration in Monday calls with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, according to the White House.

Biden and Zelensky spoke for 35 minutes, according to a White House official. Later, the White House released a statement saying Biden spoke to his Ukrainian counterpart to “reaffirm the commitment of the United States to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Biden “strongly condemned” Putin’s “decision to purportedly recognize the ‘independence’ of the so-called DNR and LNR regions of Ukraine,” the White House statement added. Biden also updated Zelensky on U.S. plans to issue sanctions in response, the statement said.

He also spoke with Macron and Scholz for about 30 minutes, according to a White House official.

In that conversation, the “leaders strongly condemned President Putin’s decision to recognize the so-called DNR and LNR regions of Ukraine as ‘independent.’ They discussed how they will continue to coordinate their response on next steps,” according to a White House news release.

Members of Congress vow support for UkraineReturn to menu

A bipartisan group of Senate and House members pledged to “support our NATO allies and the people of Ukraine” in the event of a Russian invasion.

The delegation of more than 20 lawmakers who attended last weekend’s Munich Security Conference, which was dominated by the growing threat of war on the Russia-Ukraine border, said in a statement Monday: “It now appears increasingly likely that Russian forces will initiate hostilities against a free and peaceful Ukraine.”

“We pledge to work toward whatever emergency supplemental legislation will best support our NATO allies and the people of Ukraine, and support freedom and safety around the world,” the statement read. “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.”

Signatories included Sens. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), who led the delegation. Other members included Sens. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), and from the House, Reps. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), Jason Crow (D-Colo.), Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.).

In a separate statement on the delegation’s participation in the Munich conference, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said U.S. lawmakers “expressed America’s strong support for the people of Ukraine and reaffirmed America’s ironclad commitment to imposing swift and severe consequences if Russia chooses to invade Ukraine. In our response, the West will remain strong, united and resolute.”

Putin orders troops into newly recognized separatist regionsReturn to menu

Russian President Vladimir Putin, after recognizing two Russian-backed separatist regions in Ukraine as independent, ordered Russian forces into the territories for “peacekeeping” purposes, dramatically escalating a crisis that has put Europe on the brink of a full-fledged war.

In two Russian presidential orders published by the state news agency RIA Novosti, Putin ordered the Russian Defense Ministry to ensure the deployment of the Russian military into the Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic for the purposes of “supporting peace.” Troops have been amassing near the Ukrainian border for weeks.

Putin approved the agreements for 10 years, according to the full document published by RIA Novosti, allowing Russia to build military bases in Donetsk and Luhansk and jointly patrol their borders with Ukraine.

Despite fueling a war in the regions since 2014, the Kremlin has long denied that regular Russian forces are aiding the separatist fighters, though their presence has been documented by the Ukrainian and U.S. governments for many years.

The decision to openly deploy Russian forces into the territories — which have seen a significant rise in violence in recent days — further raises the risk of a full-scale war in Ukraine. If Russian troops die and the Kremlin blames Ukrainian forces, such an incident could be used as a pretext for a broader invasion of Ukraine by the Russian military.

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