Middle East

Russia approves offensive, Putin didn’t pick up call – Zelenskyy

Russian President Putin recognises independence of two breakaway regions in Ukraine, paving way to provide them with military support and raising fears of invasion of Ukraine. Here are the latest updates:

This Maxar satellite image taken and released on February 23, 2022, shows a battle group and artillery deployment in Golovchino.

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Zelenskyy: Russia approves offensive against Ukraine

Russia has approved an offensive against Ukraine, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said, adding that Russian President Vladimir Putin did not reply to his invitation to hold talks.

Zelenskyy made the remarks in a 10-minute address posted on Telegram during which he spoke in both Ukrainian and Russian. 

“I initiated a telephone call with the president of the Russian federation. Result: silence,” Zelenskyy said in a late-night address.

On the Ukrainian border “nearly 200,000 soldiers are stationed, (as are) thousands of combat vehicles,” Zelenskyy said, adding “major war in Europe” could be started by Russia soon.

“I am addressing you Russian citizens as a citizen of Ukraine. We share a more than 2,000 kilometre border, and there are almost more than 200,000 soldiers, thousands of combat vehicles.”

Zelenskyy said: “We should stop, before it’s too late. If the Russian leadership doesn’t want to sit down at the negotiating table, they should sit at the table with  you. Do Russians want war? I’d love to answer this question but the answer depends only on you.”

READ MORE: The invasion that never was? What’s next for Russia in Ukraine

Ukraine requests urgent meeting of UN Security Council

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has demanded an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council regarding the latest appeal of pro-Russian separatists to Russia for military assistance.

“Ukraine has requested an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council due to the appeal by Russian occupation administrations in Donetsk and Luhansk to Russia with a request to provide them with military assistance, which is a further escalation of the security situation,” Kuleba said on Twitter.

READ MORE: What sanctions have been imposed on Russia and will they be effective?

Ukraine under ‘continuous’ cyberattack

Ukraine is coming under a “continuous” cyberattack, the state cyber security agency has said, with attacks sharply escalating in the past week.

The agency said the latest strikes temporarily disabled several government websites, including those run by the cabinet of ministers, parliament, the foreign ministry, and the state security service.

It added that it blamed the attack on Russian actors, saying they are “no longer even trying” to hide their identity.

The sites of several ministries and banks went down for the first time last week, with officials suggesting the denial-of-service (DDoS) attack was of Russian origin.

Meanwhile, researchers at cybersecurity firm ESET said destructive software has hit hundreds of computers in Ukraine. 

READ MORE: Russia-Ukraine stand-off: What are Europe’s natural gas alternatives?

Ukraine says Russia evacuates chemical plant in Crimea

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has said that Russia had evacuated night-shift staff at the Titan chemicals plant in Crimea.

The chemicals producer is in Armyansk in the northern part of the Ukrainian peninsula, annexed by Russia in 2014, about 2 km from territory under Ukrainian control.

The Titan plant and the Crimean department of the Russian emergency ministry were not available for comments.

Ukraine’s foreign minister said the evacuation of the plant was a possible preparation for another staged provocation by Russia.

“Moscow seems to have no limits in attempts to falsify pretexts for further aggression,” he said on Twitter.

Images show new deployments in western Russia near Ukraine

New satellite imagery has shown a number of new deployments in western Russia, many of them within 10 miles of the border with Ukraine and less than 50 miles from the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, a private US company has said.

The images showed field deployment, military convoys, artillery and armored personnel carriers with support equipment and troops. 

The images released by Maxar Technologies, which has been tracking the buildup of Russian forces for weeks, could not be independently verified by Reuters news agency.

Kremlin: Ukraine rebels seek Russia’s ‘help’ against Kiev

The Kremlin has said the heads of east Ukraine’s breakaway leaders have asked Russian President Vladimir Putin for “help” to “repel aggression” from the Ukrainian army. 

Putin’s spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said the separatist republics “ask the president of Russia for help in repelling the aggression of the armed forces in Ukraine.” 

The statement was carried by Russian state news agencies.

Ukrainian parliament approves national state of emergency

Lawmakers in Ukraine have approved a nationwide state of emergency amid fears of an all-out Russian invasion.

The parliament approved Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s decree that imposes the measure for 30 days starting Thursday. 

The state of emergency allows authorities to impose restrictions on movement, block rallies and ban political parties and organisations “in the interests of national security and public order.” 

The document also bans “information materials that could destabilise the situation in the country,” and gives government the right to impose curfews and conduct checks

World facing a moment of peril: UN chief

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has told the General Assembly that the world is “facing a moment of peril” over Ukraine’s crisis with Russia.

“If the conflict in Ukraine expands, the world could see a scale and severity of need unseen for many years,” he warned the body on Wednesday.

Biden announces sanctions on Russia’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline

US President Joe Biden has announced that Washington will join Germany in imposing sanctions on the Russian Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline project in retaliation for Moscow’s military pressure against Ukraine.

“I have directed my administration to impose sanctions on Nord Stream 2 AG and its corporate officers,” Biden said in a statement. 

The measure, targeting one of energy-rich Russia’s biggest geostrategic initiatives, comes a day after Germany announced it was halting the controversial project.

Ukraine’s state websites, banks hit by another cyberattack

The websites of Ukraine’s government, foreign ministry and state security service have been down in what the government said was the start of another massive denial of service (DDoS) attack that began at around 1400 GMT (4PM local).

Ukrainian authorities said this week they had seen online warnings that hackers were preparing to launch major attacks on government agencies, banks and the defence sector.

Ukraine has suffered a string of cyberattacks that Kiev has blamed on Russia. Moscow has denied any involvement.

Ukraine soldier dies in shelling attack: Armed forces

A Ukrainian soldier has died in a shelling attack near the front with the Moscow-backed separatist east, the armed forces said, as fears mount of a Russian invasion.

Ukraine’s army did not specify the location of the attack, saying only that one soldier “suffered fatal injuries” and another was wounded in the shelling.

EU calls emergency summit on crisis

The EU will hold an emergency summit in Brussels on Russia’s “aggressive actions” against Ukraine, European Council President Charles Michel has announced in a letter to the bloc’s leaders.

“It is important that we continue to be united and determined and jointly define our collective approach and actions,” he said.

“Therefore, I would like to invite you for a special European Council (summit) on Thursday 24 February, which will take place in person in Brussels and start at 1900 GMT (20:00PM local).”

Ukraine demands security guarantees from West, Russia

Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelenskyy demanded “immediate” security guarantees from the West and Moscow aimed at averting a feared Russian invasion.

“Ukraine needs security guarantees. Clear, specific, and immediate,” Zelenskyy said.

“I believe that Russia must be among those countries giving clear security guarantees.”

He warned that the future of European security was being decided in his country’s standoff with Russia.

The future of European security is being decided right now, here in our home, in Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy

Russia starts pulling diplomatic staff from Ukraine

Russia has started evacuating personnel from all of its diplomatic facilities in Ukraine.

Russia’s state news agency on Wednesday reported that the embassy in Kiev confirmed the evacuations have begun.  

An Associated Press photographer in Kiev saw the flag was no longer flying over the embassy building in the city.

Moscow also has consulates in Kharkiv, Odesa and Lviv. 

Ukraine security council calls for state of emergency

Ukraine’s top security official has said the country would impose a state of emergency on all of its territory, apart from the Donetsk and Luhansk regions where it has been in place since 2014.

Oleksiy Danilov said the emergency state would last 30 days and could be extended for another 30 days. The security council has approved the plan.

The measure, which must be formally approved by parliament, requires stepped-up document and vehicle checks, among other measures.

Danilov also said Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had not discussed the development of nuclear weapons, something Vladimir Putin has said posed a strategic threat for Russia.

Putin says Russia’s interests ‘non-negotiable’

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that Moscow was ready to look for “diplomatic solutions” amid raging tensions with the West over Ukraine but stressed that the country’s interests were non-negotiable.

“Our country is always open for direct and honest dialogue, for the search for diplomatic solutions to the most complex problems,” Putin said.

But he added: “The interests of Russia, the security of our citizens, are non-negotiable for us.”

He praised the battle-readiness of the Russian army and said the country would continue to develop state-of-the-art weapons.

We will continue to develop advanced weapon systems, including hypersonic and those based on new physical principles, and expand the use of advanced digital technologies and elements of artificial intelligence.. Such complexes are truly the weapons of the future, which significantly increase the combat potential of our armed forces.

Russian President Vladimir Putin

Ukraine asks citizens to leave Russia

Kiev’s foreign ministry has urged Ukrainians to refrain from travelling to Russia, and asked those in that country to leave immediately.

It said the growing threat of Russian “aggression” meant that it would be increasingly difficult to provide consular services for Ukrainian citizens in Russia.

Between two and three million Ukrainians are believed to be living in Russia today.

Pope warns of ‘increasingly alarming scenarios’

Pope Francis has said “increasingly alarming scenarios” were emerging in Ukraine and threatening “the peace of all” amid fears of a Russian invasion.

“I ask all of the parties involved to abstain from any action that could cause still more suffering for the population,” the pontiff said at the end of his weekly general audience on Wednesday.

Francis also said next Wednesday, which is Ash Wednesday in the Christian calendar and the beginning of the period of Lent, would be a “day of fasting and of prayer for peace”.

China accuses US of fuelling tensions

China has accused the United States of “raising tensions” and “creating panic” over the Ukraine crisis, shortly after Washington announced sanctions against Moscow and said it would continue to supply weapons to Ukraine against a Russian invasion.

“If someone is adding fuel to the fire while blaming others…then that behaviour is irresponsible and immoral,” foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told reporters on Wednesday.

She said China had “called on all parties to respect and attach importance to each other’s legitimate security concerns, strive to resolve issues through negotiation and consultation, and jointly maintain regional peace and stability”.

Taiwan condemns Russia over Ukraine standoff

Taiwan’s president has condemned Russia for ordering troops into rebel-held regions in Ukraine, and claimed the crisis was being used to hurt morale on the island, which has long been under the threat of a Chinese invasion.

“Our government condemns Russia’s violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty… and urges all parties to continue to resolve the disputes through peaceful and rational means,” President Tsai Ing-wen said on Wednesday.

Self-ruled democratic Taiwan has watched the Ukraine situation closely, as China claims sovereignty over the island and has vowed to seize it one day.

Minister: Germany can do without Russian gas

Germany can meet its energy needs without Russian gas, its economy minister has said.

Asked on public radio if Europe’s largest economy could do without natural gas deliveries from Russia, currently its largest supplier, Economy Minister Robert Habeck responded on Wednesday: “Yes, it can.”

On Tuesday, Chancellor Olaf Scholz said the approval of the controversial NordStream 2 pipeline from Russia would be suspended in response to President Vladimir Putin’s decision to recognise two breakaway regions of Ukraine.

Libya urges Russia to withdraw forces from Ukraine

Libya has urged Russia to withdraw all its forces from Ukrainian territories and from Ukraine’s borders.

“The Government of Libya joins the international community’s call on Russia not to launch a military attack against Ukraine. We reaffirm our commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Libya’s Foreign Ministry said on Twitter.

The country also refused to recognise the independence of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic nor the Luhansk People’s Republic.

It called on Russia to use the language of diplomacy and dialogue instead of violence and war. 

One Ukrainian soldier killed, six wounded

The Ukrainian military has said one soldier had been killed and six wounded in shelling by pro-Russian separatists in east Ukraine in the past 24 hours as ceasefire violations remain at a high level.

The military had recorded 96 incidents of shelling by separatists over the past 24 hours compared with 84 a day earlier. 

It said separatist forces used heavy artillery, mortars and Grad rocket systems.

Civilians arrive in Russian capital Moscow after Russia’s decision to recognize the Donetsk region as an independent state.
Civilians arrive in Russian capital Moscow after Russia’s decision to recognize the Donetsk region as an independent state.

Australia, Japan slap Russia with sanctions

Japan is imposing sanctions on Russia over its actions in Ukraine, including prohibiting the issuance of Russian bonds in Japan and freezing the assets of certain Russian individuals, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has said.

Kishida, who also called on Russia to return to diplomatic discussions, said he did not see a significant impact on energy supplies in the short term from the current situation and said further steps would be considered should the situation worsen.

Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison also imposed sanctions on some Russian individuals, announced travel bans and targeted financial sanctions over Moscow’s moves in eastern Ukraine. 

“Australians always stand up to bullies, and we will be standing up to Russia, along with all of our partners,” he said.

“I expect subsequent tranches of sanctions, this is only the start of this process.”

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Venezuela announces support for Russia

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has firmly announced his support for Russian President Vladimir Putin, amid what he described as plans by the West to “surround Russia militarily and strategically”.

Maduro discussed the escalating tensions between Russia and Ukraine for more than half an hour during the meeting with his cabinet.

“President Putin denounced before the UN Security Council that they  (NATO) intend to surround Russia, pointing all NATO weapons at Russia in order to attack and destroy it when the conditions are right,” Maduro said.

“And what does the world expect from President Putin, that he should stand idly by and not act in defence of his people? That is why Venezuela announces its full support to President Vladimir Putin.”

Biden-Putin summit is ‘certainly’ not being planned now

A possible meeting between US President Joe Biden and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin is “certainly” not an option at the moment, the White House has said.

“At this point, it certainly is not in the plans,” said White House spokesperson Jen Psaki, who added that a de-escalation of conflict with Ukraine would be needed for such a summit.

READ MORE: What options does Russia have to invade Ukraine?

READ MORE: Nord Stream 2 is key in energy chess game between Russia and the West

Blinken cancels Geneva meeting with Russia’s Lavrov

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has cancelled plans to meet his Russian counterpart in Geneva later this week as Russia presses ahead with recognition of separatist regions of Ukraine and sends troops there.

Russia’s actions indicated Moscow was not serious about a diplomatic path to resolving the crisis, Blinken said during a joint press conference with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba at the State Department.

As a result, he said he had called off his Thursday meeting with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

Echoing President Joe Biden, Blinken said Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to recognise the independence of Ukraine’s Donbass region was a violation of international law. And, he said the placement of Russian troops there constituted the beginning of an invasion.

Although he held out hope for a peaceful resolution through diplomacy, he said he did not believe a meeting with Lavrov would be productive at this time.

Kuleba, for his part, said Ukraine “strongly” believes that the time for imposing sanctions on Russia and its leadership is now, to prevent a further invasion.

“The world must respond with all its economic might to punish Russia for the crimes it has already committed and ahead of the crimes it plans to commit. Hit Russia’s economy now, and hit it hard,” he said.

READ MORE: The US provoked the Russian invasion to maintain its global primacy

UN chief concerned by ‘perversion of peacekeeping’

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said he was “concerned about the perversion of the concept of peacekeeping” after Moscow ordered Russian troops into eastern Ukraine to “keep the peace.”

“When troops of one country enter the territory of another country without its consent, they are not impartial peacekeepers. They are not peacekeepers at all,” Guterres told reporters.

The United States has dismissed Russia’s justification to deploy troops as “peacekeepers” as “nonsense.”

READ MORE: Explainer: What to know about Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions

Canada imposes sanctions on Russia

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced economic sanctions on Russia, saying Moscow’s actions against Ukraine were “a further invasion of a sovereign state, and it is completely unacceptable.”

“We will ban Canadians from engaging in purchases of Russian sovereign debt. And we will apply additional sanctions on to state-backed Russian banks and prevent any financial dealings with them,” Trudeau said, announcing a series of measures.

Ukraine calls up reservists, launches programme of ‘economic patriotism’

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said he was calling up reservists for a special period but ruled out a general mobilisation after Russia announced it was moving troops into eastern Ukraine.

Zelenskyy said he was still pursuing diplomatic ways out ofthe crisis and welcomed Türkiye’s willingness to participate in multilateral talks, but said Ukraine would not cede any territory to Russia.

Addressing the nation after a cross-party meeting inparliament, Zelenskyy announced a programme of “economic patriotism” that included incentivising local production and value added tax cuts on gasoline. 

Romania says it can host 500,000 refugees if Russia invades Ukraine

Romania can host over 500,000 Ukrainian refugees if the country is invaded by Russia, Defence Minister Vasile Dincu has said.

Speaking to the press, Dincu said Romania does not expect a huge migrant flow to the country but is prepared to receive more than 500,000 refugees if necessary.

Dincu said the Defence Ministry and the Interior Ministry got together to designate areas to shelter refugees along the border in case of a war between Russia and Ukraine.

Urging Romanians to stay calm, Dincu said there will be no war on their land.

He said conditions for an armed conflict have appeared, adding: “I hope diplomats will continue to talk, not soldiers.”

Biden announces first tranche of Russia sanctions

US President Joe Biden has announced what he called the “first tranche” of sanctions against Russia, including steps to starve the country of financing, saying Moscow had started an invasion of Ukraine.

“We’re implementing full blocking sanctions on two large Russian financial institutions; VEB and their military bank,” Biden said in a White House address, adding that the sanctions will target Russian sovereign debt.

“The measures also would target financial institutions, and Russian elites,” the US leader added.

He declared that Moscow had flagrantly violated international law in what he called the “beginning of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.”

Biden said more sanctions could be on the way if Russia’s President Vladimir Putin proceeds further.

Ukraine soldier killed, six wounded in war-torn east

A Ukrainian soldier has died and six received injuries in clashes with Moscow-backed rebels in the separatist east, the army said, as fears grow that Russia is preparing to invade.

“One soldier was killed” as a result of shelling from separatist-held areas in the Luhansk region, military spokesman Pavlo Kovalchuk told AFP news agency.

Russia says to evacuate diplomats from Ukraine soon

Russia has said it would soon evacuate its diplomatic staff from Ukraine “to protect the lives and safety (of diplomats)” after lawmakers allowed President Vladimir Putin to use force abroad, Moscow’s foreign ministry said.

The diplomats have received threats and that its embassy and consulate has been under “repeated attacks”, the ministry added.

Russia has also established diplomatic relations with Ukraine’s separatist-controlled regions, recognised by Putin as independent this week, according to the ministry.

Pentagon chief calls on Putin to avoid full-blown “war of choice”

Russian President Putin can still avoid a full-blown war of choice, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said at the start of talks at the Pentagon with Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.

“Mr Putin can still avoid a full-blown, tragic war of choice,” Austin told Kuleba, adding: “We will continue to work closely with you.”

Before reporters were escorted from the room, Kuleba said: “My message is simple: (a) strong Ukraine is the best deterrence of Russia.”

Russia planning further invasion of Ukraine: Stoltenberg

Russia has not stopped planning for a full-scale invasion of Ukraine since recognising the independence of separatist enclaves, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has said.

“Every indication is that Russia is continuing to plan for a full-scale attack of Ukraine,” Stoltenberg told a news conference, adding that “more and more of the forces are moving out of the camps and are in combat formations and ready to strike.”

“We continue to call on Russia to step back … it’s never too late not to attack,” he added.

The NATO chief called the military action a “further invasion” of Ukraine by Russia which had already invaded its neighbour in 2014.

Stoltenberg said NATO put it its response force on higher readiness several weeks ago and has 100 jets on high alert and 120 ships at sea.

EU to sanction Russian individuals and entities

European Union foreign ministers have agreed to sanction 27 Russians and entities after Moscow recognised two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine, as well banks, the defence sector and limiting Russian access to European capital markets.

All members of Russia’s Duma, parliament’s lower house, will be hit with EU sanctions, which typically involve travel bans and asset freezes.

“This package of sanctions that has been approved by unanimity by the member states will hurt Russia, and it will hurt a lot,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told a news conference alongside France’s foreign minister at a meeting in Paris.

White House calls Russian moves on Ukraine an invasion

The White House has begun referring to Russian troop deployments in eastern Ukraine as an “invasion” after initially hesitating to use the term, a red line that US President Joe Biden has said will result in the US levying severe sanctions against Moscow.

“We think this is, yes, the beginning of an invasion, Russia’s latest invasion into Ukraine,” said Jon Finer, principal deputy national security advisor.

“An invasion is an invasion and that is what is underway.”

Lawmakers give Putin permission to use force outside Russia

Russia’s upper house of parliament has given President Vladimir Putin permission to use military force outside the country upon his request to utilise the Russian army to support separatists in Ukraine.

That could presage a broader attack on Ukraine after the US said an invasion was already underway there.

Putin: Ukraine peace agreement ‘does not exist’ anymore

Russian President Putin has said that Western-brokered peace agreements seeking to end a conflict in eastern Ukraine no longer existed, after he recognised the independence of the ex-Soviet country’s separatist regions.

“The Minsk agreements do not exist now, we recognised the DNR and LNR,” Putin said, using the abbreviations for the separatist regions in Donetsk and Luhansk.

He also called for international recognition of Crimea as part of Russia, an end to Ukraine’s NATO membership bid and a halt to weapons shipments there.

Ukraine minister urges EU to promise future membership

Ukraine’s foreign minister has urged European Union member states to promise his country future membership in the bloc in response to Russia’s attempts to isolate it.

“I called on the EU to put aside all the hesitation, all the reticence and skepticism that exists in European capitals and to give Ukraine the promise of future EU membership. That time has come,” Dmytro Kuleba said.

“The best strategic decision Europe can make right now is to literally take Ukraine into itself.”

HRW fears Russia will repeat Syria ‘war crimes’ in Ukraine

Human Rights Watch has highlighted Russia’s track-record for bombing civilian infrastructure in Syria’s conflict and voiced fear “war crimes strategy” could be repeated in Ukraine if the conflict escalates further.

Following Moscow’s recognition of two self-proclaimed republics in eastern Ukraine, HRW chief Kenneth Roth cautioned that the region could “be on the verge of a significant armed conflict”.

Hungary to deploy troops near its border with Ukraine

Hungary is set to deploy an unspecified number of troops near its border with Ukraine, for both security purposes and humanitarian tasks, Hungary’s defence ministry said on the government’s official Facebook page.

Several countries in Eastern Europe have made preparations for potentially hundreds of thousands of people fleeing Ukraine if a crisis with Russia escalates.

UK sanctions five Russian banks, three individuals

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said the UK will sanction five Russian banks and three high net worth individuals including Gennady Timchenko after Russian President Vladimir Putin recognised two breakaway regions of east Ukraine.

“Today, the UK is sanctioning the following five Russian banks: Rossiya, IS Bank, General Bank, Promsvyazbank and the Black Sea Bank, and we’re sanctioning three very high net worth individuals,” Johnson told parliament.

The individuals concerned — Gennady Timchenko, Boris Rotenberg and Igor Rotenberg — will be banned from travelling to Britain and all UK individuals and entities will be banned from dealing with them and the banks.

The country also announced asset freezes and travel bans on high-profile individuals with close ties to President Putin.

It is absolutely vital that we hold in reserve further powerful sanctions … in view of what President Putin may do next.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson

Putin pledges uninterrupted gas supplies as sanctions loom

Russia will continue uninterrupted natural gas supplies to world markets, Putin has pledged, after Germany halted a key gas pipeline’s certification over Moscow’s troop deployment to two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine.

“Russia aims to continue uninterrupted (gas) supplies, including liquefied natural gas, to the world markets, improve related infrastructure and increase investments in the gas sector,” Putin said in written remarks for a gas summit in Qatar.

Europe secures some 40 percent of its gas needs from Russia and was looking into approval of a newly-built Nord Stream 2 undersea gas pipeline which connects Russia with Germany.

EU, US welcomes Germany’s decision to halt Nord Stream 2

Europe’s energy supply would not be affected if the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline designed to bring Russian gas to Germany was halted, since the pipeline is not yet operating, the European Commission has said.

“Nord Stream 2 is not yet functioning, is not supplying energy to Europe. It’s not a different source of energy, it’s a different pipeline for an existing supplier… There’s no change in the current situation,” a Commission spokesperson told a regular press briefing.

The White House welcomed Germany’s decision and said that US sanctions would be announced soon.

READ MORE: Germany: Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project with Russia suspended

EU proposes Russia sanctions targeting banks, market access

The EU is set to target banks financing Russian operations in Ukraine’s separatist territories following Moscow’s recognition of their independence, and hit Moscow’s access to European financial markets.

The proposed sanctions, which also include blacklisting officials and hitting trade with the breakaway regions, will be formally submitted later in the day, said a statement from EU chiefs Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel.

The measures have to be approved by all 27 EU members states.

Western leaders allege Russia sending troops to east Ukraine

Western leaders have said that Russian troops have moved into rebel-held areas in eastern Ukraine after Putin recognised their independence.

But some indicated it was not yet the long-feared, full-fledged invasion.

Russia is not planning to send troops to eastern Ukraine “for now” but will do so in case of a “threat”, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko earlier said, after Moscow’s parliament ratified cooperation deals with Ukraine’s separatist republics.

NATO announces urgent meeting with Ukraine envoy

NATO has announced an “extraordinary” meeting with Ukraine’s envoy after Russia recognised two separatist regions in the east of the country as independent.

A statement from the alliance said NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg would brief media after the talks with non-NATO member Ukraine.

China concerned about ‘worsening’ Ukraine situation

China is concerned about the “worsening” situation in Ukraine, Foreign Minister Wang Yi has said, repeating his call for all parties to show restraint and resolve differences through dialogue.

The legitimate security concerns of any country should be respected, Wang, who is also a Chinese state councillor, told US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a telephone call, the Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement.

“The situation in Ukraine is worsening,” Wang told Blinken. “China once again calls on all parties to exercise restraint.”

Iran urges ‘restraint’ in Ukraine crisis, blames West

Iran has urged “restraint” from both Russia and Ukraine while blaming the United States and NATO for the sharp escalation of tensions.

The Islamic Republic of Iran calls on all parties to exercise restraint and avoid any action that could aggravate tensions

Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran

Ministry spokesperson Said Khatibzadeh added that “unfortunately, the interventions and provocative actions of NATO and mainly the US have complicated the situation in the region.

“We are following the issues related to this country with sensitivity.”

UK to immediately impose hard economic sanctions on Russia

Britain will immediately impose hard economic sanctions on Russia, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said.

“We will immediately institute a package of economic sanctions,” Johnson told reporters.

The sanctions, he said, would be “targeted not just at entities in Donbass and Luhansk and Donetsk, but in Russia itself – targeting Russian economic interests as hard as we can.”

Ukraine reports two soldiers killed, 12 wounded

The Ukrainian military has said two soldiers have been killed and 12 wounded in shelling by pro-Russian separatists in east Ukraine in the past 24 hours.

The military said on its Facebook page it had recorded 84 cases of shelling by separatists who it said had opened fire on about 40 settlements along the front line using heavy artillery.

Ukraine has accused Russia of provoking the violence, saying Moscow used it as a pretext to formally recognise eastern Ukraine as independent and move its troops into the region.

Servicemen of Ukrainian Military Forces walk along tranches on their position on the front line with Russia backed separatists, near Novognativka village, Donetsk region.
Servicemen of Ukrainian Military Forces walk along tranches on their position on the front line with Russia backed separatists, near Novognativka village, Donetsk region.

US, allies lambast Russia over Ukraine at UN Security Council

The United States and its allies rounded on Russia during an emergency Security Council session, denouncing Vladimir Putin’s recognition of rebel-held areas in Ukraine.

They termed Russian deployment of troops in the two breakaway regions of Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine as a gross violation of international law and “pretext for war.”

Ukraine’s ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya insisted that his country’s borders remain “unchangeable” despite Russia’s actions.

Addressing the council, US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield heaped scorn on Putin’s assertion that the Russian troops would take on a peacekeeping role in the Donetsk and Luhansk areas.

China at UN urges restraint by all sides

China has called for restraint by “all sides” to avoid further escalation in the Ukraine crisis, urging a diplomatic solution during an emergency United Nations Security Council meeting.

“All parties concerned must exercise restraint and avoid any action that may fuel tensions. We welcome and encourage every effort for a diplomatic solution,” said Zhang Jun, China’s ambassador to the UN.

Civilians evacuated from Donetsk and Luhansk, located in Donbas region, arrive in Rostov, Russia following their evacuation.
Civilians evacuated from Donetsk and Luhansk, located in Donbas region, arrive in Rostov, Russia following their evacuation.

US to announce sanctions against Russia

The United States is coordinating with allies and will announce new sanctions against Russia.

“Tomorrow, the United States will impose sanctions on Russia for this clear violation of international law and Ukraine sovereignty and territorial integrity,” US Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said after a UN Security Council meeting.

Russia remains ‘open to diplomacy’: envoy

Russian envoy to the United Nations Vasily Nebenzya said Moscow remains “open to diplomacy” but stressed the need to defend separatist areas from what he dubbed Ukrainian aggression.

“We remain open to diplomacy for a diplomatic solution,” he said during an emergency UN Security Council meeting. 

“Allowing a new bloodbath in the Donbass is something we do not intend to do.”

Russian envoy to UN, Vasily Nebenzya

Türkiye urges its citizens to leave eastern Ukraine

Türkiye has “strongly” urged its citizens to leave eastern regions of Ukraine.

“In the light of the latest developments, we strongly urge our citizens to leave the Eastern regions of Ukraine. We recommend our citizens to contact our Embassy in Kiev when necessary,” said the Turkish Foreign Ministry in a statement.

Japan says its ready to join US-led sanctions on Russia

Japan said it stood ready to join the United States and other G7 industrialized nations in slapping sanctions on Russia, should President Vladimir Putin order an invasion of Ukraine.

The confirmation by the world’s No. 3 economy comes as the crisis in Europe deepens, with the Russian leader on Monday ordering troops into two breakaway regions in Eastern Ukraine that Russia now recognises as independent states.

READ MORE: World reacts to Russia’s recognition of Ukraine regions as ‘independent’

Monday, February 21, 2022

Military vehicles including tanks, APCs seen on Donetsk outskirts

Columns of military vehicles including tanks and armoured personnel carriers have rolled on the outskirts of Donetsk, the capital of one of two breakaway regions of eastern Ukraine after Russian President Vladimir Putin recognised them as independent states.

Reuters news agency, citing its witness, said no insignia were visible, but the appearance of the vehicles came hours after Putin signed friendship treaties with the two separatist regions and ordered Russian troops to deploy on what Moscow called a peacekeeping operation.

Reuters reporters in Donetsk had not seen tanks on the streets in previous days.

President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian troops into two rebel-backed regions of eastern Ukraine, sparking fears of a wider conflict in the region.
President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian troops into two rebel-backed regions of eastern Ukraine, sparking fears of a wider conflict in the region.

Ukraine’s borders remain ‘unchangeable’ despite Russian action

Ukraine’s borders remain “unchangeable” regardless of Russia’s recent actions, Kiev’s ambassador to the United Nations has told the Security Council.

“The internationally recognised borders of Ukraine have been and will remain unchangeable regardless of any statements and actions by the Russian Federation,” Sergiy Kyslytsya said during an emergency meeting called after Russian President Vladimir Putin recognised the independence of two rebel-held areas in eastern Ukraine.

He demanded Russia “cancel recognition” of two eastern breakaway regions and end occupation of Ukrainian territories. 

Russia tells UN it won’t allow ‘bloodbath’ in Ukraine’s Donbass

Russian envoy to the United Nations Vasily Nebenzya has said Moscow remains “open to diplomacy” but stressed the need to defend separatist areas from what he dubbed Ukrainian aggression.

“We remain open to diplomacy for a diplomatic solution,” he said during an emergency UN Security Council meeting. 

“However, allowing a new bloodbath in the Donbass is something we do not intend to do.”

Nebenzya also warned Western powers to “think twice” and not worsen the situation in Ukraine.

Russia’s order to deploy ‘peacekeepers’ in eastern Ukraine is ‘nonsense’

Russia’s order to deploy “peacekeepers” in eastern Ukraine is “nonsense,” Linda Thomas-Greenfield, US ambassador to the United Nations has told Security Council meeting, adding that Moscow’s recognition of the breakaway eastern regions was a part of its attempt to create a pretext for a further invasion of Ukraine.

Speaking at an emergency UN Security Council meeting on Ukraine, Greenfield said the consequences of Russia’s actions will be dire across Ukraine, Europe and worldwide and that the humanitarian toll will expand significantly if Moscow invaded further.

Putin wants the world to travel back in time, to a time when empires ruled, this is not 1919

US envoy to UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield

Zelenskyy: Russia has destroyed peace efforts 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has accused Russia of wrecking peace talks and ruled out making any territorial concessions in an address to the nation.

Zelenskyy said Ukraine was committed to peace and diplomacy after Russia formally recognised two Russian-backed separatist regions as independent on Monday evening.

He said Ukraine is “not afraid of anything or anyone.”

The president said Ukraine was expecting “clear and effective” steps from its allies to act against Russia and called for an emergency summit of the leaders of Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France.

We are committed to the peaceful and diplomatic path, we will follow it and only it. But we are on our own land, we are not afraid of anything and anybody, we owe nothing to no one, and we will give nothing to no one

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy

Australia asks Russia to move its troops behind its own borders

Australia will be in lockstep with its allies on any sanctions on Russia, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said.

Russia should unconditionally move its troops behind its own borders and stop threatening its neighbours, Morrison said during a media briefing.

“It’s unacceptable, it’s unprovoked, it’s unwarranted …some suggestion that they are peacekeeping is nonsense,” Morrison said.

Tanks seen in Donetsk

A Reuters news agency witness has seen columns of military vehicles including tanks on the outskirts of Donetsk, the capital of one of the breakaways east Ukraine regions.

UNSC to meet urgently on Ukraine crisis

The UN Security Council will hold an emergency meeting over Ukraine.

The meeting comes at the request of Ukraine, the United States and six other countries. Russia, which currently holds the rotating council presidency, has scheduled it for 9 pm [New York time.]

Yet undetermined is whether the meeting will be open or closed.

Ukrainian UN ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya said in a letter to his Russian counterpart that Kiev is requesting the urgent meeting because Putin’s actions violate Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, the UN Charter, and a 2014 UN General Assembly resolution.

It is virtually certain the Security Council will not take any action or issue any statement because Russia has veto power.

Türkiye: Russia’s recognition of Ukraine regions ‘unacceptable’

Türkiye has assailed Russia’s recognition of two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine as independent, calling it a violation of international agreements and Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

“The decision of Russia to recognise the Donetsk and Luhansk Republics amounts to a clear violation of not only the Minsk agreements but also Ukraine’s political unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said.

“We find Russia’s so-called decision to be unacceptable and reject it,” the ministry said, calling on all sides to respect international law.

NATO member Türkiye, which shares a maritime border with both Ukraine and Russia in the Black Sea, has good ties with both its neighbours, and has offered to mediate the crisis, while warning Moscow against invading Ukraine. Ankara also opposes sanctions on Russia.

READ MORE: Ukraine’s ‘revolution of dignity’ was a ‘point of no return’https://twitter.com/DeptofDefense/status/1496168397293465601

We find Russia’s so-called decision to be unacceptable and reject it

Turkish Foreign Ministry

Pro-Russian activists react on a street as fireworks explode in the sky, after Russian President Putin signed a decree recognising two Russian-backed breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine as independent entities, in the separatist-controlled city of Donetsk, February 21, 2022.
Pro-Russian activists react on a street as fireworks explode in the sky, after Russian President Putin signed a decree recognising two Russian-backed breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine as independent entities, in the separatist-controlled city of Donetsk, February 21, 2022.

US, allies request emergency UNSC meeting on Ukraine

The United States and allies including France have requested an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council on Russia’s recognition of separatist territories in Ukraine as independent, diplomats told the AFP news agency.

The countries behind the request for the meeting, based on a letter from Ukraine to the UN, also include the United Kingdom, Ireland and Albania, the same sources said.

It is up to the rotating presidency of the Council, currently held by Russia, to formally schedule the meeting.

How a tiny breakaway state called Transnistria can alter the Ukraine crisis

OSCE reports more than 3,000 ceasefire violations 

Monitors from the OSCE European security body have reported more than 3,000 new ceasefire violations in east Ukraine, a high for the year that came ahead of Russia’s decision to recognise separatist regions there.

In a daily report based on information received by Sunday evening, the OSCE reported 2,158 new violations in the Donetsk region and another 1,073 in neighbouring Luhansk.

Russia now has right to build military bases in eastern Ukraine

Russia has acquired the right to build military bases in Ukraine’s two breakaway regions under new agreements with their separatist leaders there, according to a copy of an agreement signed by President Putin published on Monday.

Russia and the breakaway regions also plan to sign separate agreements on military cooperation and protection of borders, according to draft laws that Russia’s State Duma lower house of parliament will consider. 

READ MORE: Russia’s Putin recognises Ukraine breakaway regions as independent

US assures support to Ukraine

US President Joe Biden has condemned a decision by Russian President Putin to recognise two breakaway regions of Ukraine as he spoke to world leaders following the latest developments in the crisis.

“Biden strongly condemned Russian President Putin’s decision to purportedly recognise the “independence” of the so-called DNR and LNR regions of Ukraine,” on a call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the White House said.

Biden also “updated President Zelenskyy on the United States’ response, including our plan to issue sanctions. President Biden reiterated that the United States would respond swiftly and decisively, in lock-step with its Allies and partners, to further Russian aggression against Ukraine.”

Biden also discussed with France’s Emmanuel Macron and Germany’s Olaf Scholz “how they will continue to coordinate their response on next steps”, according to another statement.

Putin orders Russian troops to eastern Ukraine’s breakaway regions

President Vladimir Putin has ordered his Defence Ministry to dispatch Russian peacekeepers to eastern Ukraine’s two breakaway regions, according to a decree published after Moscow recognised their “independence” from Kiev. 

In two official decrees late on Monday, Putin instructed the ministry to assume “the function of maintaining peace” in so-called Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics.

Russia recognised both regions as independent statelets, defying Western warnings that such a step would be illegal and kill off long-running peace negotiations.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies

https://www.trtworld.com/europe/live-blog-russia-approves-offensive-putin-didn-t-pick-up-call-zelenskyy-54992?utm_source=other&utm_medium=rss Russia approves offensive, Putin didn’t pick up call – Zelenskyy

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