Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered so-called “peacekeepers” to enter Ukrainian territories held by pro-Russian secessionists, the latest alarming turn in the growing conflict in Eastern Europe.
The escalation follows Putin’s recognition of two breakaway pro-Russian states in Eastern Ukraine as independent countries. Putin signed a decree recognizing the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic on Monday.
The decree authorized the deployment of Russian troops to the Donbas region, a geographic term that encompasses both Donetsk and Luhansk.
Population centers of the two regions are held by the secessionists, who have received tacit backing from Russia for years.
It wasn’t clear in the West on Tuesday when the Russian government intends that the “peacekeepers” enter Ukrainian territory, or if its forces have already moved in.
“A vaguely worded decree signed by Putin late Monday did not say if Russian troops were on the move, and it cast his order as an effort to ‘maintain peace,’” The Associated Press reported Tuesday morning.
However, another AP report Tuesday quoted a European Union official as saying Russian forces were already in Ukraine.
“Russian troops have entered in Donbas,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said in Paris, according to the AP. “We consider Donbas part of Ukraine.”
Putin had delivered a lengthy speech Monday attacking Ukraine’s historical claims of nationhood, describing the country as a creation of Vladimir Lenin’s Soviet government.
President Joe Biden has sought to deter Putin from invading Ukraine, with a crisis between the two former Soviet countries intensifying since late last year.
Ukraine aspires towards membership in NATO, a development that Russia finds unacceptable.
Russia has consistently demanded guarantees from western governments that Ukraine be excluded from the military alliance.
In response to Russian recognition of the two secessionist republics, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki announced that Biden is preparing an executive order to sanction investment and trade in Donetsk and Donbas.
Washington Post national security reporter John Hudson published a Twitter post describing that move as “bad news for US investors looking to get in on the ground floor of a hot Donetsk or Luhansk investment property.”
Bad news for US investors looking to get in on the ground floor of a hot Donetsk or Luhansk investment property: “President Biden will soon issue an Executive Order that will prohibit new investment, trade, and financing by U.S. person…in the so-called DNR and LNR regions” pic.twitter.com/gcpQuw2FsS
— John Hudson (@John_Hudson) February 21, 2022
The Biden administration has failed to rally European NATO allies to stand more forcefully against Russian ambitions regarding Ukraine, with Germany refusing to forego a natural gas pipeline to Russia as a means to deter Putin’s aggressive conduct.
While still a candidate for the Democratic nomination for president in 2020, Biden touted his ability to deal with Putin forcefully.
Vladimir Putin doesn’t want me to be President. He doesn’t want me to be our nominee. If you’re wondering why — it’s because I’m the only person in this field who’s ever gone toe-to-toe with him.
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) February 21, 2020
“Vladimir Putin doesn’t want me to be President. He doesn’t want me to be our nominee,” Biden wrote. “If you’re wondering why — it’s because I’m the only person in this field who’s ever gone toe-to-toe with him.”