Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday recognized two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine as independent states by signing a decree, raising the chances of war, Reuters reported.
Putin made the announcement during a speech where he stressed that Ukraine has historically been part of Russia and is now under Western control.
Prior to his speech, the Kremlin released a readout of a call between Putin, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in which the Russian president said he would grant “in the near future” formal recognition to the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and the Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR) which are located in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine.
“The president of France and the Federal Chancellor of Germany expressed their disappointment with this development. At the same time, they indicated their readiness to continue contacts,” the Kremlin further said in the statement.
European leaders urged Putin to desist from the idea, including by threatening sanctions against Russia if he did so.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell warned that “If there is annexation, there will be sanctions,” following a meeting of foreign ministers from the 27-nation EU bloc. “If there is recognition, I will put the sanctions on the table and the ministers will decide,” he added.
Putin’s announcement would scupper the chances of the possible meeting with President Biden that the White House said he had agreed to only if an invasion did not occur.
The U.S. and its partners believe this may be lining up a justification for invading Ukraine and have warned the Kremlin that if it makes a military incursion, it will face a massive economic sanctions package.
Following Putin’s announcement, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said President Biden will issue an initial wave of sanctions against Russia.
“President Biden will soon issue an Executive Order that will prohibit new investment, trade, and financing by U.S. persons to, from, or in the so-called DNR and LNR regions of Ukraine,” she stated.
“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, as reported by Fox News.