US President Joe Biden on Tuesday announced tough new sanctions on Russia for “beginning” an invasion of Ukraine but said there was still time to avoid war, even as Vladimir Putin signaled plans to send troops beyond Russia’s borders.
Russia’s upper house, the Federation Council, gave Putin unanimous approval to deploy “peacekeepers” to two breakaway Ukrainian regions now recognized by Moscow as independent, and potentially into other parts of Ukraine.
Biden announced what he called the “first tranche” of sanctions, including steps to starve Russia of financing and target financial institutions and the country’s “elites.”
But he left the door open to a final effort at diplomacy to avert a full-scale Russian invasion.
“There’s no question that Russia is the aggressor, so we’re clear eyed about the challenges we’re facing,” the president said.
“Nonetheless, there is still time to avert the worst case scenario that will bring untold suffering to millions of people.”
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The United States told the UN General Assembly Wednesday that a Russian invasion of Ukraine could displace as many as five million people.
“If Russia continues down this path, it could — according to our estimates — create a new refugee crisis, one of the largest facing the world today,” said America’s ambassador to the world body, Linda Thomas-Greenfield.
Ukraine is coming under a “massive” cyberattack, a senior minister said on Wednesday, with the main websites of the government and foreign ministry refusing to open.
Deputy Prime Minister Mykailo Fyodorov said the attack began in the late afternoon and affected several banks as well as official websites, without specifying its origin.
The official site of Ukraine’s cabinet of ministers and the foreign ministry refused to open when AFP tried to access it on Wednesday
But most of the main news sites in Ukraine were working, as well those of banks and the main public institutions.
A Ukrainian soldier died Wednesday in a shelling attack near the frontline with the Moscow-backed separatist east, the armed forces said, as fears mount of a Russian invasion.
Ukraine’s army did not specify the location of the attack, saying only that one soldier “suffered fatal injuries” and another was wounded in the shelling.
Nine Ukrainian soldiers have died since the beginning of the year, with six of them killed in intensifying clashes over the past four days, according to an AFP tally based on official sources.
Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday demanded “immediate” security guarantees from the West and Moscow aimed at averting a feared Russian invasion.
“Ukraine needs security guarantees. Clear, specific, and immediate,” Zelensky said, adding: “I believe that Russia must be among those countries giving clear security guarantees.”
Amid rising tension between Russia and the West over Ukraine, Minister of State for External Affairs Meenakshi Lekhi on Wednesday said India believes in rules-based order and all stakeholders must communicate with each other.
On the evacuation of Indian citizens from Ukraine, Mr Lekhi said the government is doing its best as it has done in the past, “be it the COVID-19 situation, emergency in Libya or other exigencies”.
“India stands by its people. We urge the citizens to remain in touch with the embassy,” she asserted.
“India believes in rule-based order. We pray for harmony and peace all around. We seek all the stakeholders must communicate with each other,” she told PTI.
Andrey Turchak, a senior member of Russia’s ruling party, said on Wednesday that the Russian military would only enter two breakaway regions in Ukraine recognised by Moscow as independent states if it was asked to do so by separatist leaders there.
Turchak said any such deployment would be of what he described as “of a peacekeeping nature.”
Turchak and Denis Pushilin, a Russian-backed leader in one of the breakaway regions, told reporters that the Russian military was not yet present in the Russian-backed separatist-held areas despite allegations from the West that Moscow has had a covert military presence there for years.
Russian President Vladimir Putin can do a lot more damage in Ukraine and the United States is prepared to respond by withholding technology and resources if he does, deputy U.S. Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo said on Wednesday.
“We’re gonna cut him off from Western technology that’s critical to advancing the military, cut him off from Western financial resources that will be critical for feeding his economy and also to enriching himself,” Adeyemo said in an interview with CNBC.
JustIn | Russia begins evacuating diplomatic staff from Ukraine, news agency AFP reported quoting news agencies
A Russian-backed leader in the breakaway Donetsk region of Ukraine said on Wednesday that a military mobilisation was gathering pace to counter Ukrainian “aggression”.
Denis Pushilin, leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic that was recognised by Russia this week, said the situation had become critical but the separatists would win with support from “big Russia”.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Wednesday that Russian President Vladimir Putin no longer accepted Ukraine’s independence under international law.
“President Putin in his speech (on Monday) declared in a sense the negation of Ukraine as a sovereign country,” he told reporters after talks with his German counterpart Annalena Baerbock in Berlin.
In eastern Europe, a region once ruled by Moscow with deep resentment against Russia, unverified claims and anti-Western disinformation are making surprising inroads as the regional crisis deepens.
In Slovakia, which neighbours Ukraine, disinformation about the situation has been widely shared even by some members of parliament.
Lubos Blaha from the leftist opposition Smer party, who has over 170,000 Facebook followers, posted after Putin’s speech questioning Ukraine’s existence that “I’m convinced [Putin] wants peace”.
Blaha claimed that Ukraine “provoked and threatened Russia” while “the West was hectoring it”.
He added that the country is “controlled by oligarchic clans, neonazism and russophobia are on the rise, and corruption is in full bloom”.
Ukraine’s security council on Wednesday approved plans to declare a state of national emergency, in response to the growing threat of a Russian invasion.
The measure, which must be formally approved by parliament, requires stepped-up document and vehicle checks, among other measures, the council’s secretary Oleksiy Danilov said.
Kirtan Kalathiya, a medical university student in Ukraine, was seen chatting in Gujarati and laughing with four of his friends from his native state soon after they reached Delhi airport following a long journey from Kyiv.
Even as they were shooting the breeze close to midnight on Tuesday, standing near a taxi bay, one of them kept looking at the Instagram page of Kyiv Post on his mobile phone to get the latest update on the situation in Ukraine amid escalating tensions between Russia and the eastern European country.
From Kharkiv to Chernivtsi, Indians students and professionals, living in different parts of Ukraine, started arriving in different flights at the Delhi international airport from 11 PM onwards on Tuesday.
Most of the students, PTI spoke to soon after their arrival, said they had followed the advisory issued by the Indian Embassy in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv.
A first, limited, round of European Union sanctions on Russia is set to take effect by 1400 GMT on Wednesday, a senior EU diplomat said, after foreign ministers agreed in principle on Tuesday to blacklist more politicians and target bond trading.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday recognised the separatist enclaves in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine that adjoin Russia, deepening Western fears of a major war in Europe.
EU foreign ministers chose not to sanction Putin himself but instead blacklist all members of the lower house of the Russian parliament who voted in favour of the recognition of the breakaway regions, freezing any assets they have in the EU and banning them from travelling to the bloc.
Pope Francis said Wednesday that “increasingly alarming scenarios” were emerging in Ukraine that were threatening “the peace of all” amid fears of a Russian invasion.
“Despite the diplomatic efforts of these past weeks, increasingly alarming scenarios are emerging,” the pontiff said at the end of his weekly general audience.
“I ask all of the parties involved to abstain from any action that could cause still more suffering for the population,” he said.
Ukraine on Wednesday began calling up reservists into the armed forces and urged its citizens to leave Russia immediately as the pro-Western country braced for a possible invasion.
The call was issued a day after Russia’s upper house of parliament gave President Vladimir Putin permission to send “peacekeepers” into two breakaway regions of eastern Ukraine.
Ukraine’s armed forces said in a statement on Facebook that reservists between the ages of 18 and 60 would be called up for a period of up to one year.
Ukraine has a reserve force of more than 200,000 that is comprised mostly of military personnel who served in the first years of the country’s eight-year war with Russian-backed separatists.
Ukraine on Wednesday urged its citizens to leave Russia immediately, citing the threat of a Russian invasion that could complicate the provision of consular services.
“Because of the escalating Russian aggression against Ukraine, which can lead to a substantial reduction in possible consular assistance in Russia, the foreign ministry urges the citizens of Ukraine to refrain from travel to Russia, and for those in that country to leave its territory immediately,” the ministry said
Russia today welcomed India’s “independent position” on the Ukraine crisis and said its views on the issue at the UN Security Council was reflective of the special and privileged strategic partnership between the two countries.
Russian Deputy Chief of Mission Roman Babushkin said India has been playing a vital role as a responsible global power and it takes an “independent and balanced” approach to global affairs.
“We welcome the independent position of India which it took twice at the UN Security Council,” he said at an online media briefing.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that Moscow was ready to look for “diplomatic solutions” amid raging tensions with the West over Ukraine but stressed that the country’s interests were non-negotiable.
“Our country is always open for direct and honest dialogue, for the search for diplomatic solutions to the most complex problems,” Putin said in a video address to mark the Defender of the Fatherland Day, a public holiday in Russia.
But he added: “The interests of Russia, the security of our citizens, are non-negotiable for us.”
Putin spoke after parliament’s upper house, the Federation Council, on Tuesday gave him unanimous approval to deploy “peacekeepers” to two breakaway Ukrainian regions now recognised by Moscow as independent, and potentially into other parts of Ukraine.
US President Joe Biden on Tuesday (local time) announced new sanctions against Russia and called President Vladimir Putin’s moves in eastern Ukraine the “beginning of a Russian invasion”.
This comes after President Vladimir Putin recognized the independence of breakaway regions Donetsk and Luhansk and ordered Russian troops there.
Russia’s strategic nuclear forces held exercises overseen by President Vladimir Putin on Saturday, and Washington accused Russian troops massed near Ukraine’s border of advancing and being “poised to strike”.
With Western fears of war rising, the White House said U.S President Joe Biden’s national security team told him they still believed Russia could launch an attack in Ukraine “at any time” and he planned to convene his top advisers on Sunday to discuss the crisis.
Foreign ministers from the G7 group of rich nations said they had seen no evidence Russia is reducing its military activity in the area and remained “gravely concerned” about the situation.
Former US president Donald Trump boasted of his close relationship with Russian leader Vladimir Putin on Tuesday, arguing that the Ukraine crisis would not have happened under his administration.
“If properly handled, there was absolutely no reason that the situation currently happening in Ukraine should have happened at all,” he said in a statement.
“I know Vladimir Putin very well, and he would have never done during the Trump administration what he is doing now, no way!”
Russia has agreed to postpone some debt payments owed to it by communist-run Cuba until 2027, its lower house of parliament said on Tuesday, just days after the two countries announced they would deepen ties amid the spiraling Ukraine crisis.
The loans, worth $2.3 billion and provided to Cuba by Russia between 2006 and 2019, helped underwrite investments in power generation, metals and transportation infrastructure, according to a statement from the lower house, or Duma.
On Tuesday, Russian lawmakers ratified an agreement, originally signed with Cuban counterparts in Havana in 2021, that amended the loan terms, the statement said.
Cuba last week expressed support for Russia in its showdown with Western powers over Ukraine following a visit from Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov, and accused long-time rival the United States and its allies of targeting Moscow with what it called a “propaganda war” and sanctions.
Japan is imposing sanctions on Russia over its actions in Ukraine, including prohibiting the issuance of Russian bonds in Japan and freezing the assets of certain Russian individuals, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said on Wednesday.
Kishida, who also called on Russia to return to diplomatic discussions, said he did not see a significant impact on energy supplies in the short term from the current situation and said further steps would be considered should the situation worsen.
Russian leader Vladimir Putin on Monday ordered troops into two breakaway regions in Eastern Ukraine that Russia now recognises as independent states.
Russian parliament’s upper house on Tuesday voted to allow President Vladimir Putin to use the Russian army outside the country to support separatists in Ukraine.
A total of 153 Russian senators backed the decision, with no one voting against or abstaining.
Despite Russia’s foreign ministry earlier saying they are not planning to send troops to eastern Ukraine “for now,” Putin asked the Federation Council to approve the army’s use outside the country to back separatists who have been fighting the Ukrainian army since 2014.
“Negotiations have stalled. The Ukrainian leadership has taken the path of violence and bloodshed,” Deputy Defence Minister Nikolay Pankov said during a session of the Federation Council called at Putin’s request.
- US President Joe Biden on Tuesday announced the “first tranche” of sanctions against Russia, including steps to starve the country of financing, saying Moscow had started an invasion of Ukraine.
- And Biden threatened tougher steps if Russia “continues its aggression.”
- “We’re implementing sanctions on Russia’s sovereign debt. That means we’ve cut off Russia’s government from Western financing,” Biden said.
- “It can no longer raise money from the West and cannot trade in its new debt on our markets or European markets either.”
- The measures also target VEB, Russia’s state development bank, and members of the country’s “elites,” the US leader said.
- “They share the corrupt gains of the Kremlin policies, and should share in the pain as well.”