President Joe Biden on Tuesday announced the first wave of sanctions on Moscow as Russian President Vladimir Putin appeared to be stepping up aggressions toward Ukraine, moving troops into two breakaway areas of eastern Ukraine and asking lawmakers to authorize his using troops overseas.
Putin framed the troop movement as a “peacekeeping” effort, but the Kremlin's decision came after Russia massed some 150,000 troops on its neighbor's borders, triggering dire warnings from the West that an invasion was imminent and that Moscow was trying to create a pretext for an attack.
The Biden administration has begun describing Russia’s movement of troops as “an invasion," and canceled a planned meeting between the country's top diplomats.
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McConnell says 'world is watching' U.S. response to Russia-Ukraine crisis
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., warned Tuesday that Russian President Vladimir Putin's actions will only escalate and become more aggressive.
Putin has "turned his back on the Minsk process and diplomacy in favor of escalation and invasion of a sovereign country," said McConnell in a statement. "Every indication suggests these actions will almost certainly be used as a prelude to even further aggression and an even larger invasion."
The U.S. and the European Union on Tuesday announced sanctions targeting two Moscow-backed breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine after Putin recognized their independence Monday.
"The world is watching. Our allies, our adversaries, and neutral countries will all judge the West by our response — and plan their futures accordingly," McConnell continued, warning that all eyes are on the U.S.'s response to Putin.
During a separate event on Tuesday, in reference to Biden's upcoming remarks, McConnell said "what I hope he's saying right now is that from a sanctions point of view, we're gonna impose the toughest possible sanctions now."
Sen. Lindsey Graham says GOP would back strong economic action on Russia
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told reporters Tuesday that a "bunch of Republicans" would back firm economic sanctions and actions against Russia.
"The only thing Putin will understand is a strong response," Graham said at a press conference in South Carolina, where he called the unfolding situation in Ukraine "the most important time in world history since the end of World War II."
He called for harsh sanctions targeting Russian oligarchs, and praised President Joe Biden for sending American troops to bolster the defenses of NATO allies along the Russian border, but said he'd been too slow to take action.
He criticized the administration's approach as "minimalist, and that needs to change."
"Well right now, Mr. President, you're playing footsie with Putin and you're losing. He's walking all over you and our allies," Graham said, but "there's bipartisanship to go after the oligarchs. There's bipartisanship to beef up NATO. There's bipartisanship for biting sanctions."
"I promise you there are a bunch of Republicans that will stand firmly with you to push back against this outrage by Putin and to reset the world order. I also promise you if you try to soft-sell this and don't push back hard, the Republican Party will be an alternative to what you're suggesting," Graham said.
A Ukrainian serviceman at a position on the front line with Russia-backed separatists near the settlement of Troitske in the Lugansk region on Tuesday.
Putin calls for recognition of Crimea as Russia
President Vladimir Putin said Moscow had recognized the two breakaway republics within the boundaries of Ukraine's Donetsk and Luhansk regions, vast swaths of which are held by the Ukrainian military.
He added that the Minsk peace agreement, that sought to end war in Ukraine's Donbas region, no longer existed, but blamed Kyiv for its demise.
Putin also claimed that Russia's 2014 annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula should be internationally recognized as part of Russia. He said this was legitimate reflection of the local population's choice and likened it to a vote for Kosovo independence.
The annexation has been widely condemned by Western powers as a breach of international law.
Re-emphasizing that Russia is "categorically against Ukraine joining NATO," he said it should renounce its bid to join the alliance and assume a "neutral status." He added that the West should stop sending weapons there.
Blinken, Lavrov meeting 'in real jeopardy' after Russian troop movement
A meeting between Secretary of State Tony Blinken and Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov planned for Thursday is now “in real jeopardy," a senior Biden administration official told NBC News.
A second official said it’s hard to see how the meeting goes forward and a third official said it’s “likely” the meeting won’t happen. By extension, that means any summit between Biden and Putin is in jeopardy as well, these officials acknowledged.
These comments track with comments by deputy national security adviser Jon Finer, who told CNN this morning, “I think what Russia has done has made a diplomatic path much harder to walk down and much less likely.”
On MSNBC’s “Morning Joe," Finer said he would “leave it to the State Department to determine whether or not that meeting goes forward."
"Regardless, Russia is taking significant steps away from diplomacy," he added. "We are not gonna be the ones that close the door, but all signs are not encouraging about the path they seem to be choosing."
Biden to give update on Ukraine in White House speech
President Joe Biden will speak from the East Room at 1 p.m. ET Tuesday to provide an "update on Russia and Ukraine," the White House announced.
The Biden administration on Tuesday called Russia’s movement of troops into eastern Ukraine an "invasion," a move Biden has said would trigger significant economic sanctions against Moscow.
Deputy National Security Adviser Jon Finer said earlier Tuesday that Russia had crossed a line and that Biden would announce in the coming hours new sanctions against Russia.
Russia continues to plan for Ukraine attack, NATO says
There is "every indication that Russia is continuing to plan for a full-scale attack of Ukraine," NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told a news conference in Brussels Tuesday.
Calling on Russia to "step back," he said it was "never too late not to attack."
He said that NATO would continue to provide Ukraine with "strong political support" while continuing to "do whatever is necessary to protect the military alliance.
"We urge Russia to choose the path of diplomacy," he said, adding that it was "the most dangerous moment in security in a generation."
Putin requests approval for the use of armed forces outside Russian territory
Russian President Vladimir Putin has asked the Russian parliament’s upper chamber, the Federation Council, for approval to use armed forces outside Russian territory, according to the chamber's chairwoman, Valentina Matviyenko.
The request came after lawmakers were told to return for a closed-door session after a break, according to Russian state-owned news agency RIA Novosti.
This is the procedure that would be necessary in case Putin would want to formally proceed with military actions in the Donbass region. He needs the council's approval in order to make decisions about the Russian army's activities abroad.
White House says Russia has invaded Ukraine, triggering stiff sanctions
WASHINGTON — The Biden administration is now describing Russia’s movement of troops into eastern Ukraine on Monday as “an invasion,” a move President Joe Biden has said would trigger significant economic sanctions against Moscow.
The shift in the administration’s language comes just hours after officials said that Russia moving troops into the Donbas region of Ukraine “would not itself be a new step,” since Russia has had forces there since 2014.
Two administration officials said the change in language Tuesday morning followed an assessment of Russia’s actions on the ground in Ukraine.
Russian pipeline to Germany put on ice after Putin sends troops to Ukraine
A Russian natural gas pipeline to Germany was delayed Tuesday as the United States and its allies threatened far-reaching sanctions to punish President Vladimir Putin after he ordered troops into Ukraine.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz took the first steps to suspend the certification process for the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which would bring natural gas into Europe. It has been built but is not yet operational.
“It is important to launch new sanctions now in order to prevent an escalation and a disaster,” Scholz said at a news conference in Berlin. “These are difficult hours for Europe and almost 80 years after the end of the Second World War, we might see a new war in Eastern Europe.”
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E.U. activates cybersecurity experts
A coalition of European Union countries is tapping a team of cybersecurity experts to help Ukraine fend off potential cyberattacks from Russia.
Lithuania's Ministry of National Defence announced Tuesday that it is leading the E.U.-affiliated Cyber Rapid Response Team in its first deployment. The Netherlands, Poland, Estonia, Romania, and Croatia will all send defensive cybersecurity experts. The move comes in response to a request for aid from Ukraine.
Ukraine has long been a target for Russia's government-affiliated hackers. It has already faced several cyberattacks during Russia's current troop buildup, including destructive software implanted on government computers in January and an attack that briefly knocked its banks offline last week.
Oil prices surge as stock markets shaken amid Ukraine crisis
Oil prices surged to close to $100, the highest in more than seven years, as global stock markets fell in early trading Tuesday amid growing fears over the Ukraine crisis.
Brent crude oil was up nearly 4 percent Tuesday morning, rising to just over $99 a barrel.
Meanwhile, Europe's STOXX 600 index fell nearly 2 percent in a seven-month low in early trade, before rising back up to Monday's closing level.
The ruble rose in FX markets, while German equities erased losses of more than 2 percent to trade flat.
Wall Street also erased losses, with futures measures for the S&P 500 turning positive as Nasdaq recovered from losses of about 2 percent to trade down 0.4 percent.
The developments came as the U.S. and its allies vowed to impose harsh sanctions in response to Russian President Vladimir Putin's decision Monday to formally recognize the independence of two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine, as he sent troops to the area.
On Tuesday, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said efforts were underway to halt progress on the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline in the wake of Monday's developments.
European soccer organization under pressure to move Champions League final from Russia
European soccer's governing body, UEFA, is coming under pressure to move the showpiece Champions League final from the city of St Petersburg.
The blue ribbon event of the European club football calendar is set to take place at the Krestovsky Stadium on May 28.
But British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the U.K. Parliament Tuesday that he thought it was "inconceivable that major international football tournaments can take place in Russia after the invasion of a sovereign country."
Other British politicians including Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries and Tracey Crouch, a former sports minister, also called for the venue to be moved.
UEFA has previously been able to move prestigious events at relatively short notice, including last year's final which was also set to be played in Saint Petersburg, but moved to Porto in Portugal due to Covid travel restrictions.
UEFA said in a statement Tuesday that it was "constantly and closely monitoring the situation and any decision would be made in due course if necessary."
Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov at the coffin of a 35-year-old soldier who died in recent shelling incident at the frontline with Russia-backed separatists, during a ceremony in Kyiv on Tuesday.
U.S. will act with Germany to halt Nord Stream 2 if Russia invades Ukraine, Psaki says
The U.S. will "act with Germany" to ensure the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline "does not move forward" if Russia invades Ukraine, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday.
Psaki said in a tweet that President Joe Biden had made clear the U.S. would support blocking progress on the pipeline should the Ukraine crisis escalate.
The statement came after German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said his country was moving to halt the multibillion-dollar pipeline, which was to provide Russian natural gas to Germany.
"We have been in close consultations with Germany overnight and welcome their announcement," Psaki said, adding that the U.S. would be "following up with our own measures today."
Ukrainian service members take part in military drills at a training ground in an unknown location in Ukraine, in this handout picture released Tuesday.
Putin says he has no plan to 'restore the empire'
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he does not have a plan to "restore the empire" as he accused third parties of using territory in Ukraine to "create threats to Russian Federation."
"We predicted the speculations on this subject: that Russia is trying to restore the empire. This is completely untrue," Putin said Tuesday following a meeting with Ilham Aliyev, the president of Azerbaijan.
The comments came just a day after the Russian leader formally recognized the independence of Moscow-backed breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine.
Putin suggested that Russia's relationship with Ukraine was "different" from its relationship with other post-Soviet nations.
"After the fall of the Soviet Union Russia recognized the geopolitical reality and, as you know, is actively working on strengthening our cooperation with all the independent countries of the former Soviet Union," Putin said.
Putin maintained that "Russia only supports the sovereignty of our neighbors and strengthens it."
"We will keep this policy with regards to all of our neighbors," he said. However, he said: "The situation with Ukraine is different and it is connected to the fact that, unfortunately, the territory of this country is being used by third parties to create threats to Russian Federation."
Britain unveils 'barrage' of sanctions as Russian ambassador summoned
Britain has announced a "barrage" of sanctions against Russia following the latest developments in the Ukraine crisis.
The announcement came as Britain's Foreign Office summoned the Russian ambassador for a meeting Tuesday amid the crisis, Downing Street confirmed to NBC News.
Speaking in Parliament Tuesday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he would unveil a string of economic sanctions following Moscow's decision to send troops into eastern Ukraine.
Johnson said the U.K. would be sanctioning five Russian banks, as well as three individuals, including Russian billionaire Gennady Timchenko, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"We will prohibit all U.K. individuals and entities from having any dealings with them," he said.
He warned that Britain would take further action if a full-scale invasion of Ukraine were to take place.
"The House should be in no doubt that the deployment of these forces in sovereign Ukrainian territory amounts to a renewed invasion of that country," Johnson said.
"And by denying Ukraine's legitimacy as a state and presenting its very existence as a mortal threat to Russia, Putin is establishing the pretext for a full-scale offensive," he said.
Kyiv braces for conflict after Putin orders troops into eastern Ukraine
The world was facing up to a new phase in the Ukraine crisis on Tuesday, with Kyiv bracing for a potential conflict with Russia and the West moving to impose sanctions on Moscow.
Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered troops into two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine after recognizing their independence Monday, threatening a major escalation following months of military buildup and warnings from the West that the Kremlin was trying to create a pretext to invade its neighbor.
Kyiv’s mayor, Vitali Klitschko, said in a video message Tuesday that Russia had declared war on its neighbor.
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Smoke billows from a power plant after it was shelled in Shchastya, in the Luhansk region, eastern Ukraine, on Tuesday.
Ukraine welcomes Germany's move to halt Nord Stream 2 as 'morally' correct call
Ukraine has welcomed Germany's move to halt progress on the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, calling it the correct decision "morally" and "politically."
In a statement Tuesday, Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba said he welcomed the move to suspend the certification of Nord Stream 2 shortly after German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced the decision.
"True leadership means tough decisions in difficult times," Kuleba said. "Germany’s move proves just that."
Scholz told reporters on Tuesday that the pipeline would not be certified. He said the government had decided to "reassess" the certification of the pipeline, which has not begun operating yet. Germany currently relies on Russia for around a third of its natural gas.
State Dept. personnel based in Lviv moved to Poland
State Department personnel working out of Lviv were relocated to Poland to spend the night amid concerns of an imminent Russian invasion of Ukraine, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced in a statement Monday.
Blinken said the employees would "regularly return to continue their diplomatic work in Ukraine and provide emergency consular services," although he didn't say how often that would occur. He added that the relocation of personnel "in no way undermines our support for, or our commitment to, Ukraine," which he said "transcends any one location."
Blinken also said Americans in Ukraine should depart the country "immediately."
"The security situation in Ukraine continues to be unpredictable throughout the country and may deteriorate with little notice," he said. "There is a strong likelihood that any Russian military operations would severely restrict commercial air travel."
Syria supports Russia in recognizing independence of breakaway regions
Syria has said it backs its ally Russia's decision to recognize two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine as independent, Syrian state TV quoted the country's foreign minister as saying on Tuesday.
"Syria supports President Vladimir Putin's decision to recognize the republics of Luhansk and Donetsk," Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad told an event in Moscow, according to The Associated Press.
The comments came as the United States and allies prepared to announce fresh sanctions against Russia on Tuesday following the development.
"What the West is doing against Russia is similar to what it did against Syria during the terrorist war," Mekdad reportedly said.
Syria has been a steadfast ally of Russia since the country launched its military campaign in Syria in 2015.
In a statement on Tuesday, the Syrian presidency said: "Syria affirms that it is ready to work on building relations with the republics of Luhansk and Donetsk and to strengthen them with regard to mutual interests."
China muted on Russia-Ukraine crisis
As the United States and a slew of other countries condemned Russia’s actions in eastern Ukraine on Tuesday, China’s response has been decidedly muted.
China has not explicitly supported or condemned Russia, which Beijing has been forging closer ties with in an effort to push back against the West, and instead called on all parties to exercise restraint and find a negotiated solution.
“The security interests of any country should be respected and maintained. Real security should be common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said at a regular news briefing on Tuesday.
Wang did not answer a question on whether China recognized the independence of Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic, two Moscow-backed breakaway regions, saying the situation involved “complicated historic matters.”
Earlier on Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke by phone about developments in Ukraine and North Korea. Wang told Blinken that China was concerned about the worsening situation in Ukraine, and that the purposes and principles of the U.N. Charter should be upheld. His comments echoed those he made at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday.
China also declined to choose sides at an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council in New York on Monday. U.N. ambassador Zhang Jun instead called for diplomatic efforts toward “a reasonable solution that addresses each party’s concerns on the basis of equality and mutual respect.”
Earlier this month, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin met in Beijing during the Winter Olympics. He was one of the few world leaders to attend the opening ceremony amid a diplomatic boycott. In a joint statement released after their meeting, China supported Russia in its opposition to Ukraine’s admission into NATO, the U.S.-led military alliance.
Germany moves to halt Nord Stream 2 pipeline
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Germany is taking steps to halt progress on the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline following the latest developments in the Ukraine crisis.
Scholz told reporters on Tuesday that the pipeline would not be certified as the West looked to take punitive measures against Moscow.
He said the government had decided to "reassess" the certification of the pipeline, which has not begun operating yet.
"It sounds a bit technocratic but this is the first necessary step to make sure that this pipeline cannot be certified at this point in time and without this certification Nord Stream 2 cannot operate," he said.
Germany relies on Russia for about a third of its natural gas, a dependency that would have only increased after Nord Stream 2.
Scholtz said his government would "reassess to secure the supply and security of our country and will reassess the situation that has evolved over the last few days."
He also said it was "important to launch new sanctions now in order to prevent an escalation and a disaster."
"These are difficult hours for Europe and almost 80 years after the end of the Second World War, we might see a new war in Eastern Europe," he warned, adding: "It is our task to avert such a disaster and I call upon Russia once more to contribute their share."
Critics including Ukraine have accused Germany of not contributing enough to the efforts to counter Russian threats.
European Union foreign policy chief says Russia sending troops not a 'fully-fledged invasion'
European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said Tuesday that Russian troops "have entered" eastern Ukraine's Donbas region, but said the move did not represent a "fully-fledged invasion."
“I wouldn’t say that (it is) a fully-fledged invasion, but Russian troops are on Ukrainian soil," Borrell said Tuesday, according to the Associated Press.
He added that E.U. foreign ministers would meet Tuesday to decide what sanctions to impose following Russia's decision to formally recognize two separatist regions as independent.
Zelenskyy to consider severing diplomatic relations with Russia
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said he will weigh the possibility of severing diplomatic relations with Russia.
Speaking at a news conference on Tuesday, Zelenskyy said he had received a request from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to "consider the issue of severing diplomatic relations between Ukraine and Russia."
He said that following the news conference, he would "look at and work on this issue, and not only this issue, but our effective steps countering the escalation coming from the Russian Federation."
After Russia formally recognized the independence of two breakaway regions, he said: "We understand all the risks."
U.S., Russia trade accusations at Security Council
People of self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic celebrate Monday after being recognized by Russia
Ukraine 'ready and able to defend ourselves,' defense minister says
Ukraine's defense minister has said his country is "ready and able to defend ourselves and our sovereignty" as he appeared to call for sanctions from the international community.
In a statement on Tuesday, Oleksii Reznikov said Ukraine remained "confident and calm" after Russian President Vladimir Putin recognized the independence of two breakaway states in eastern Ukraine.
"We are ready and able to defend ourselves and our sovereignty," he said in a Twitter statement, adding that the "world cannot be silent."
In a separate statement, he said: "There are difficult challenges ahead. There will be losses."
"We will have to go through pain, overcome fear and despair," Reznikov said.
2,000 ceasefire violations in Ukrainian breakaway regions over weekend, security organization says
The world's largest regional security organization recorded a rise over the weekend in the number of ceasefire violations in the two Moscow-backed breakaway regions that Russian President Vladimir Putin recognized as independent on Monday.
In a statement Tuesday, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe's special monitoring mission to Ukraine it said it had recorded at least 2,158 ceasefire violations, including 1,100 explosions in the Donetsk region between the evenings of Friday and Sunday.
In the previous reporting period, it said it had recorded 591 ceasefire violations in the region.
Meanwhile, in the Luhansk region, it said it had recorded 1,073 ceasefire violations, including 926 explosions, over the same time period. In the previous reporting period, it said it had recorded 975 ceasefire violations in the region.
The rise in ceasefire violations came ahead of Putin's decision Monday to order troops into Ukraine just hours after formally recognizing the independence of the self-proclaimed "Donetsk People’s Republic" and "Luhansk People’s Republic," which have been controlled by Russian-backed separatists since 2014.
Separatist leaders for the regions had called for evacuations of civilians to Russia last week, warning of an imminent Ukrainian offensive.
Ukraine repeatedly denied any such plans, while its Western allies accused Moscow of attempting to create a pretext for an invasion.
U.S. to announce sanctions against Russia Tuesday
The United States is set to announce new sanctions against Russia on Tuesday in coordination with its allies after Moscow recognized two breakaway regions of Ukraine as independent and sent forces to the area, U.S. officials have said.
"Tomorrow, the U.S. will impose sanctions on Russia for its violation of international law and Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity," U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said in a statement on Twitter Monday night.
"We can, will, and must stand united in our calls for Russia to withdraw its forces, return to the diplomatic table & work toward peace," Greenfield said.
In a separate post, Greenfield also struck out at Russia's characterization of troops sent to Ukraine's Donbas region as "peacekeepers."
"President (Vladimir) Putin ordered troops into the Donbas, calling them peacekeepers. This is nonsense. We know what they really are," the ambassador said. "In doing so, he has put before the world a choice. We must meet the moment, and we must not look away."
The expected sanctions come after President Joe Biden signed an executive order Monday imposing sanctions targeting the two Russia-backed breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine after Putin recognized the regions as independent.
Putin orders troops to eastern Ukraine
Late Monday night, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered troops into Ukraine, just hours after he formally recognized the independence of two Moscow-backed breakaway regions in the eastern part of the country.
The order was seen by the United States and its European allies as a dramatic provocation after weeks of warnings that Moscow was trying to create a pretext to invade its neighbor. It led to the U.S. and the European Union announcing sanctions targeting the two areas, with more set to follow, and drew condemnation at an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council.
Putin framed the troop movement as a “peacekeeping” effort in both regions. The move came after days of escalation in the ongoing conflict between Kyiv's forces and Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine's east — and hours after he delivered a lengthy speech presenting his view of the relationship between the two nations.
Many experts believed Moscow’s formal recognition would effectively scuttle a previous cease-fire agreement in the conflict, which has been ongoing since Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula and moved to back the separatists in 2014.
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