The White House said earlier today that sanctions will be imposed on the Luhansk People’s Republic and the Donetsk People’s Republic, but stopped short of announcing sanctions against Russia. The restricted application of sanctions now seems calculated to leave open the chance for a diplomatic solution. For weeks now, the United States and Europe have threatened major economic sanctions if Russia invades Ukraine. Now, with Russian forces moving into the newly recognized independent separatist states, the definition of what exactly constitutes an invasion falls into a gray area. Are Russian troops crossing into what the world recognizes as Ukrainian territory? Yes. Is it a full-scale invasion aimed at toppling the Zelenskiy government and seizing control of the entire country? No. For now the number of troops entering LPR and DPR territory appears to be limited and their mission has been defined as ‘peacekeeping.’
The true nature of the so-called ‘peacekeeping mission’ and Russia’s troop movement into eastern Ukraine will begin to take shape in the coming hours. So far there have been no reports of significant contact between Ukrainian and separatist or Russian forces.
President Zelensky addressed the Ukrainian people after 2am local time. “We are not afraid. We won’t cede anything.” He said Putin withdrew from Minsk Agreements by ordering troops into Ukraine officially. He called for emergency meetings of OSCE, Normandy Format, UNSC. The timing of the address left me a bit perplexed. Why wait until 2 AM to address the people? Granted, most Ukrainians are probably awake now given what is happening in the east. It’s enough to make a cynical person wonder if the Ukrainian government expects something significant to happen later in the morning.
I’ll try and get one more update out before midnight. Things on my end are getting a little busy, but I should be able to get one out. Even if it’s relatively short.
The situation in eastern Ukraine is becoming clear at the moment, even as the situation in the remainder of the region remains fluid. Around 4 PM local time (Eastern Standard) Vladimir Putin ordered the Russian military forces to enter the breakaway republics in eastern Ukraine and conduct ‘peacekeeping operations.’ According to multiple sources, Russian forces have already begun entering both the LPR (Luhansk People’s Republic) and DPR (Donetsk People’s Republic). The start of this peacekeeping mission turns Minsk II to ash.
The Ukrainian government has been very slow in responding to what’s developing in the east, but it is imperative that Kiev release a statement soon. Meanwhile, the United States and its European allies are preparing sanctions packages. Latvia is calling for sanctions to be placed on Russia as punishment for the 30,000 troops it has in Belarus. Russia’s moves today are being correctly labeled as an annexation and attempt to redraw the borders of Ukraine. Only in a much more overt manner when compared to the Crimea annexation in 2014.
There is some news coming out of Donbas from independent sources, however, this will likely not last. I expect the region to be locked down electronically very soon, limiting the amount of information coming out of there.
As I said before, things are very fluid in the east now so I will probably put up a new update by 8 PM.
Vladimir Putin has announced his intention to formally recognize the independence of Donetsk & Luhansk, the breakaway areas of eastern Ukraine now controlled by pro-Russian separatists. In an address this afternoon, Putin did not discuss the Luhansk People’s Republic/Donetsk People’s Republic at length. Instead, he took the opportunity to lay the groundwork to justify a Russian invasion of Ukraine, most likely in the coming days. The speech was peppered with historical grievances and explanations of why Ukraine is not a sovereign nation-state.
Putin’s speech is still being digested at this hour, but the statement released by the Kremlin on recognizing independence of the self-declared republics in eastern Ukraine elicited a swift response from European leaders. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson claimed such a move will “plainly be in breach of international law.” Germany and France have also condemned Putin’s apparent intentions.
There is much happening across Europe, Ukraine and Russia right now and I was caught in transit when all of these events started to happen. I’ll post a more thorough update between 5 and 6 PM Eastern Standard Time.