Russian President Vladimir Putin on Feb. 21 recognized the independence of two Russian-backed breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine.
Putin announced the decision in a televised speech after holding a public meeting of his security council in Moscow.
“I believe it is necessary to take a long overdue decision to immediately recognize the independence and sovereignty of the Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic,” Putin said.
State television showed a short video of Putin signing a presidential order to recognized the breakaway regions, which have been fighting Ukrainian forces since 2014.
Separatist leaders of the regions were also present.
The move deepens the ongoing crisis in Ukraine as Russia has amassed over 150,000 troops on Ukrainian borders.
Western powers condemned the move as “a blatant violation of international law” and fear that tit could pave the way for Russia to send troops to “defend” Ukraine’s eastern regions.
“This further undermines Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, erodes efforts towards a resolution of the conflict, and violates the Minsk Agreements, to which Russia is a party,” North Atlantic Treaty Organization Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in a statement.
“It is also trying to stage a pretext to invade Ukraine once again,” Stoltenberg further said.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki announced that the Biden administration will soon “impose sanctions on any person determined to operate” in Donetsk and Luhansk, as well as measures on the “blatant violation of Russia’s international commitments.”
“To be clear: these measures are separate from and would be in addition to the swift and severe economic measures we have been preparing in coordination with Allies and partners should Russia further invade Ukraine,” Psaki said.
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