Russia’s Foreign Ministry said it would evacuate its embassy staff from Ukraine as soon as possible, citing “repeated attacks” by Ukrainians since 2014.
The big picture: The evacuation comes as Russian President Vladimir Putin has given his clearest indication yet that Russian troops will launch an invasion further into Ukraine, saying the borders of the separatist ‘republics’ he recognized on Monday will sway. extend to territory currently controlled by Ukrainian forces. [Read the latest updates.]
Why is this important: Western officials fear that Putin’s recognition of the territories and the deployment of “peacekeepers” are just the beginning, paving the way for a wider assault in eastern Ukraine and potentially the rest of the country.
- Ukraine currently controls around two-thirds of the territory claimed by the People’s Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk (D/LPR), which declared independence in 2014 but were pushed back by a military offensive.
- The borders that D/LPR declared in 2014 include, for example, Mariupol – a key Ukrainian port and a city of around 430,000 people.
Driving the news: Russia’s upper house of parliament on Tuesday granted Putin’s request to deploy military forces outside the country, authorizing action both in the disputed Donbass region and potentially elsewhere in Ukraine.
- Russian ‘peacekeepers’ crossed the border overnight into separatist-controlled eastern Ukraine after Putin announced he would recognize the D/LPR, officials say. EU and NATO.
- “Everything indicates that Russia continues to plan a large-scale attack,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said.
- Putin told a press conference on Tuesday that Russian forces may not immediately advance into the two “republics”, but that “it is impossible to predict the scenario that will unfold”.
Between the lines: Putin has continued to baselessly claim that Ukraine is the aggressor, suggesting that the “anti-Russian” government in kyiv is a security threat to Russia and may possibly be seeking nuclear weapons.
- He suggested that eventual de-escalation could be achieved if Ukraine demilitarizes, recognizes Russia’s annexation of Crimea and pledges never to join NATO – all of which are no good for Kyiv.
- Putin also said the Minsk agreements – negotiated in 2014 and 2015 to try to end the conflict in eastern Ukraine – were no longer relevant, although he claimed they had died long before. this week because of Ukraine’s intransigence.
State of play: The United States and its European allies have begun to unveil sanctions against Russia for what the United States now sees as an active invasion, but have yet to trigger the ‘massive’ sanctions package it threatens. .
Go further: The latest developments and the main outstanding questions.