Thursday, June 13, 2024

Putin Orders Troops Into Separatist Regions

Washington, DC – Russian President Vladimir Putin today recognized the two breakaway rebel regions in eastern Ukraine as independent nations, and ordered Russian troops into Donetsk and Luhansk to perform what he called “peacekeeping functions.”

In a rambling, televised address full of falsehoods and revisionist history, Putin called Ukraine a historical mistake that needed to be corrected. He described Russia as being robbed in 1991 when the Soviet Union collapsed, casting blame on the West. He referred to Ukraine as a creation of Lenin, and said that if they want ‘decommunization’, let’s not stop halfway, we will show you what decommunization looks like. Putin accused the west of tricking Ukraine and falsely claimed that NATO is controlling the Ukrainian military on the ground.

In his address to the nation, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said, “We are not afraid of anyone or anything. We don’t owe anyone anything. And we won’t give anything to anyone.” Ukraine, the US and other nations requested an emergency UN Security Council meeting. US Ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said that Putin is testing the international system to see “how far he can push us.” Ukraine’s Ambassador to the UN, Sergiy Kyslytsya, said, “The United Nations is sick. That’s a matter of fact. It’s been hit by the virus spread by Kremlin.” The current rotating presidency of the UNSC is currently held by Russia.

Putin’s speech was met with international condemnation. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg issued a statement condemning “Russia’s decision to extend recognition to the self-proclaimed ‘Donetsk People’s Republic’ [DNR] and ‘Luhansk People’s Republic’ [LNR]. 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.” 

Following Putin’s speech, President Biden both spoke with President Zelenskyy and held a joint call with French President Macron and German Chancellor Scholz.  Biden strongly condemned President Putin’s decision to recognize the “so-called Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics”.  The US said it will continue to consult with its Allies and partners about both diplomatic solutions and the consequences it will impose on Russia should it further invade Ukraine.

European leaders including President of the EU Commission Ursula von der Leyen, European Council President Charles Michel, European Parliament President Roberta Metsola were unified in their statement saying, “recognition of the two separatist territories in Ukraine is a blatant violation of international law, the territorial integrity of Ukraine and the Minsk agreements. The EU and its partners will react with unity, firmness and with determination in solidarity with Ukraine.”

President Biden issued an Executive Order (EO) today that will prohibit new investment, trade, and financing by US persons to, from, or in the so-called DNR and LNR regions.  This EO will also provide authority to impose sanctions on any person determined to operate in those areas of Ukraine. The Department of the Treasury is issuing six General Licenses to ensure that humanitarian and other related activity can continue in these regions.

Briefing the press today, a senior administration official said there will be further measures tomorrow to hold Russia accountable for this “clear violation of international law and Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as of Russia’s own international commitments.” The official said that these measures are in response to Russia’s recognition of DNR and LNR, but “they are not the swift and severe economic measures we have been preparing in coordination with Allies and partners should Russia further invade Ukraine.“

The official called Putin’s speech an “attack on the very idea of a sovereign and independent Ukraine,” adding that his false claims about Ukraine’s intentions were designed to justify possible military action by Russia.  “No one should mistake these theatrics as legitimate statecraft.  This is Potemkin politics — President Putin accelerating the very conflict he has created,” said the official.

The official stated that the US will continue to pursue diplomacy until the tanks roll, but is under no illusions about what is likely to come next, adding that it is prepared to respond decisively when it does.

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