US official says Russian troops could move into pro-Moscow areas of Ukraine in coming hours

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The United States is still seeing preparations for a potential larger invasion, including loading amphibious ships and equipment for airborne units.

Putin signed decrees recognizing the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic in a ceremony broadcast on state television on Monday.

Russian troops continue preparations for an invasion of Ukraine, but diplomacy will continue “until the tanks roll”, a senior US administration official said. “Russian troops continued to approach the border,” the official said, saying they saw invasion plans underway “at all times.”

At an urgent meeting of the United Nations Security Council convened Monday evening at Ukraine’s request, US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield called Putin’s recognition of the two territories “an attempt to create a pretext for another invasion of Ukraine” and said his claim that Russian forces entering these areas are “peacekeepers” is “nonsense”.

“We know what they really are,” Thomas-Greenfield said of those forces in remarks at the last-minute meeting, which included Russia and the other member nations.

“We must meet the moment and we must not look away. History tells us that looking away in the face of such hostility will be a far costlier course,” she said.

Thomas-Greenfield also said Russia had taken the exact actions the United States had predicted and that the United States did not believe Putin would stop his actions now. The United States, she said, will take further action on Tuesday to hold Russia accountable for the “clear violation of international law.”

Yet the sanctions announced by the White House on Monday targeting specific regions fell far short of the devastating consequences for Russia that Biden and US officials warned would be imposed if Russia invaded, a sign that the most sweeping measures are being maintained at the case Moscow goes ahead with military action to invade Ukrainian territory.

The United States refuses to clarify whether the so-called “peacekeeping” forces sent from Russia to eastern Ukraine would constitute a new invasion of the country.

Instead, the official said Russian forces have been operating in the Donbas region since Moscow’s first incursion into the country in 2014.

“The entry of Russian troops into the Donbass would not in itself be a new step. Russia has had forces in the Donbass region for eight years,” the official said.

The official, speaking to reporters on condition of anonymity, said the United States would monitor Russian actions on the ground, but declined to say whether the entry of troops would trigger the sweeping package of sanctions promised.

“We will observe and assess the actions actually taken by Russia and react accordingly,” the official said.

Biden’s executive order will also allow the United States to impose sanctions on anyone operating in those areas. And the White House said it would “soon announce additional measures related to today’s flagrant violation of Russia’s international commitments.”

Putin recognizes separatist territories in eastern Ukraine, marking sharp escalation in crisis

“To be clear: these measures are separate and would be in addition to the swift and severe economic measures we have prepared in coordination with Allies and partners should Russia further invade Ukraine,” the House press secretary wrote. Blanche, Jen Psaki, in a statement.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken hinted that more measures are to come and tweeted that “the Kremlin’s recognition of the so-called ‘Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics’ as ‘independent’ requires a prompt and firm response, and we will take appropriate action in coordination with our partners”.

The fact that Russian troops may be operating more openly in eastern Ukraine could change the US calculus, the official said.

“There have been Russian troops in Donbass for eight years now. And, you know, Russia denied that. Now Russia seems to operate openly in this region and we will react accordingly. said the official.

The official said the United States would take additional steps to respond to Russia’s recognition of breakaway territories on Tuesday.

US and Europe condemn Putin’s actions

The US response follows a lengthy speech by Putin on Monday, in which he attacked both Ukraine and the West before signing the decrees recognizing the two controversial separatist-held regions. Putin’s announcement follows various Russian allegations of provocations over the past few days, which the United States and Ukraine see as false flag operations that Moscow is using to try to manufacture a justification for war.

Western officials fear Monday’s move could be a precursor to a full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine. The United States and other NATO countries have warned that they have prepared tough sanctions in the event of Moscow invading Ukraine, which would go beyond the measures announced by the White House on Monday.

NATO and European officials have also condemned Putin’s actions in statements. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the move “further undermines” Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

“I condemn Russia’s decision to extend recognition to the self-proclaimed ‘Donetsk People’s Republic’ and ‘Lugansk People’s Republic’,” he said. “It further undermines Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, undermines efforts to resolve the conflict and violates the Minsk agreements, to which Russia is a party.”

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday that Putin’s recognition of the breakaway regions was a “bad omen and a very gloomy sign”. The UK plans to announce new sanctions against Russia on Tuesday, British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said on Twitter.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky delivered a speech on Monday evening, after Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba asked the UN Security Council to hold an urgent meeting.

Biden speaks with foreign leaders

Biden consulted with Zelensky on a call Monday afternoon, and he later spoke with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

US officials have had private conversations with Zelensky about going to Lviv, a city more than 300 miles west of the capital, Kiev, if such a step becomes necessary as Russia continues to struggle. intensify, according to sources familiar with the conversations.

The White House has publicly stated that locating Zelensky is ultimately a decision he must make.

Blinken announced Monday night that “for security reasons” State Department personnel in Lviv would “stay overnight” in Poland.

The United States claims to have credible information on the

“Our staff will return regularly to continue their diplomatic work in Ukraine and provide emergency consular services,” he said. “They will continue to support the Ukrainian people and the Ukrainian government, coordinating diplomatic efforts.”

As Putin held a national security meeting on Monday ahead of his speech, Biden held talks with senior US officials at the White House. Blinken, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley and CIA Director Bill Burns arrived at the White House on Monday, a US holiday. Vice President Kamala Harris, who returned from the Munich security conference on Sunday evening, was also at the White House.

Milley also spoke with his Ukrainian counterpart, Lt. Gen. Valery Zaluzhny, shortly after Putin recognized Ukraine’s eastern independent regions on Monday, according to a spokesman for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. . The latter two spoke to each other last week and have been in regular communication as Russian forces amassed on Ukraine’s borders and began to close in.

Overnight, U.S. officials downplayed the chances of a France-proposed summit between Biden and Putin going ahead, suggesting the prospects of a Russian invasion of Ukraine made such a meeting highly unlikely. They said no work had been done on the timing, format or venue for such a summit.

Why the Donbass is at the heart of the Ukrainian crisis

On Monday evening, the senior administration official said such a summit was unlikely following Putin’s order as well as intelligence and indications on the ground that Russia is likely to take military action in Ukraine. .

Speaking on morning shows on US television, national security adviser Jake Sullivan warned that Russia could be bracing for an even more brutal conflict than some initial estimates.

“We believe that any military operation of this size, scope and scale of what we believe the Russians are planning will be extremely violent. It will cost Ukrainians and Russians, civilians and military, their lives. But we also have intelligence to suggest. that there will be an even greater form of brutality because it will not simply be a conventional war between two armies: it will be a war waged by Russia against the Ukrainian people, to suppress them, to crush them, to harm them wrong,” Sullivan said during a Monday appearance on NBC’s “Today Show.”

Sullivan told ABC that “all signs seem to indicate that President Putin and the Russians are pursuing a plan to execute a major military invasion of Ukraine”, making it clear that an attack could begin at any time and that the step towards the invasion was underway.

This title and story have been updated with additional developments.

CNN’s DJ Judd, Kylie Atwood, Jennifer Hansler, Oren Liebermann, Kylie Atwood, Sharon Braithwaite and James Frater, Kaitlan Collins and Natasha Bertrand contributed to this report.

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