Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered troops into two Russian-backed breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine hours after formally recognizing their independence on Feb. 21.
Putin called the troop movement a “peacekeeping” effort, but United States Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield called it “nonsense.”
“We know what they really are. In doing so, he has put before the world a choice,” Thomas-Greenfield said.
Multiple U.S. and Western officials warned that the move could lead to a larger military operation.
The UN Security Council held an emergency meeting at the request of Ukraine.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres criticized the Russian move, calling it “a violation of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine and inconsistent with the principles of the Charter of the United Nations,” as quoted by the New York Times.
The deployment of troops came after Putin signed decrees to officially recognize the Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic, both of which have been controlled by separatists since 2014.
In a televised speech on Feb. 21 evening, Putin described Ukraine as a country “created by Russia.
Putin further described Ukraine as a historical part of Russia that was illegitimately taken away and is currently being run by a “puppet regime.”
“Ukraine has never had traditions of its own statehood,” Putin said.
“Ukraine is not just a neighboring country. They are a part of our culture,” Putin also said, calling it “ancient Russian lands.”
In response, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a video address, “We are on our land. We are not afraid of anything and anyone. We don’t owe anything to anyone, and we will not give away anything to anyone. And we are confident of this.”
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