Vladimir Putin has announced his intention to recognise two breakaway regions of Ukraine as independent states – laying the groundwork for a Russian invasion of parts of the country.
Putin has ordered a “peacekeeping operation” which will see Russian troops descend on the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, parts of Ukraine which Russian-backed rebels have claimed as their own.
It marks a significant escalation in the crisis, with Western governments last night plotting their response. It signals the end of the Minsk peace process signed in 2014 to bring to an end the conflict in eastern Ukraine and, much like Russia’s de-facto annexation of Crimea, is in violation of a 1994 treaty signed by Russia promising to respect Ukraine’s borders and sovereignty.
Russian-held rebels only control around a third of the disputed territory in eastern Ukraine, raising questions about whether military force will be used to secure the further two-thirds.
The UK was quick to condemn the move with Foreign Minister Liz Truss confirming that Britain will introduce sanctions against Russia alongside the European Union. Truss said Britain “will not allow Russia’s violation of its international commitments to go unpunished.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the move was “a very ill omen” and “plainly in breach of international law.”
“It’s a flagrant violation of the sovereignty and integrity of Ukraine,” Johnson said, reiterating the UK’s intention to prepare sanctions against Russia in case of an invasion.
In a meandering speech given tonight Putin blamed the loss of Ukraine on the collapse of the Soviet Union and argued the territory had never held “genuine statehood.” He also pointed the finger at Western allies, accusign NATO of commanding Ukrainian troops.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has spoken to US President Joe Biden about the developments and said a further discussion with the UK’s PM is planned.