Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to recognise the independence of two separatist regions in eastern Ukraine has drawn condemnation, with the NATO chief calling it a violation of international agreements.
Late on Monday, Putin ordered troops to “maintain peace” in the breakaway regions of Luhansk and Donetsk.
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In response, the United States announced financial sanctions against the rebel territories and warned that more were ready if necessary.
Russia’s moves come amid months of tension over its military deployment on the borders of Ukraine, which has raised fears of an all-out war.
Here is how world leaders reacted to Putin’s announcement:
US President Joe Biden “strongly condemned” Putin’s decision “to purportedly recognize the ‘independence'” of the eastern regions of Ukraine, the White House said.
Biden also told his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, “that the United States would respond swiftly and decisively, in lock-step with its Allies and partners, to further Russian aggression against Ukraine”.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the US “anticipated a move like this from Russia” and was “ready to respond immediately.”.
“President Biden will soon issue an Executive Order (EO) that will prohibit new investment, trade, and financing by US persons to, from, or in the” separatist regions, she said. Psaki further stressed “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”.
Meanwhile, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the US’s “support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity as well as for the government and people of Ukraine is unwavering”.
German Finance Minister Christian Lindner
By breaking international law, #Putin is isolating himself to the detriment of the Russian people. It will result in #NATO and #EU getting closer as communities of values. United in solidarity with #Ukraine and trust in the law.
Mit dem Bruch des Völkerrechts isoliert sich #Putin zum Schaden des russischen Volkes. Er wird erreichen, dass #NATO und #EU als Wertegemeinschaften enger zueinander finden. Vereint in der Solidarität zur #Ukraine und im Vertrauen auf das Recht. CL
— Christian Lindner (@c_lindner) February 21, 2022
Spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres
“The Secretary-General considers the decision of the Russian Federation to be a violation of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine and inconsistent with the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.
“The United Nations, in line with the relevant General Assembly resolutions, remains fully supportive of the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine, within its internationally recognised borders.”
China blames ‘complex factors’
Beijing – one of Russia’s closest allies – did not take sides, instead calling for all parties to “avoid any action that may fuel tensions”.
“The current situation in Ukraine is a result of many complex factors,” China’s UN ambassador Zhang Jun told the UN Security Council.
Foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said Iran was closely watching developments in Ukraine, calling on all sides to resolve the issue through dialogue and refrain from engaging in any action that would increase tensions.
“Unfortunately, NATO interference and provocative moves led by the United States have made conditions in the region more complicated,” he added in a statement.
French President Emmanuel Macron
“By recognising the separatist regions in eastern Ukraine, Russia is violating its commitments and undermining Ukraine’s sovereignty. I condemn this decision. I have asked for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council and European sanctions.”
En reconnaissant les régions séparatistes de l'est de l'Ukraine, la Russie viole ses engagements et porte atteinte à la souveraineté de l'Ukraine. Je condamne cette décision. J’ai demandé une réunion d'urgence du Conseil de sécurité des Nations unies et des sanctions européennes.
— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) February 21, 2022
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg
“I condemn Russia’s decision to extend recognition to the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic” and “Luhansk People’s Republic”. 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.”
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson
“It’s a flagrant violation of the sovereignty and integrity of the Ukraine… a repudiation of the Minsk process and the Minsk agreements.
The UK will continue to do everything we can to stand by the people of Ukraine with a very robust package of sanctions.
UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss
The move signals an end to the Minsk process and is a violation of the United Nations Charter.
We will not allow Russia’s violation of its international commitments to go unpunished.
Tomorrow we will be announcing new sanctions on Russia in response to their breach of international law and attack on Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity.
— Liz Truss (@trussliz) February 21, 2022
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen
“The 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.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan slammed Russia’s recognition of Ukraine’s breakaway regions as “unacceptable” in comments carried by the official Anadolu news agency.
“We consider the decision unacceptable,” said Erdogan, who is currently in Senegal.
“We invite the parties concerned to act with common sense and comply with the international law.”
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki
“The decision to recognise the self-proclaimed “republics” is a final rejection of dialogue and a flagrant violation of international law. This is an act of aggression against Ukraine, which must be met with an unequivocal response in the form of immediate sanctions.”
Japan warns of ‘strong response’
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Russia’s actions violated “Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and cannot be tolerated”.
“If an invasion occurs, we will coordinate a strong response, including sanctions, coordinating with the G7 and the international community while closely monitoring the situation,” he added.
India calls for ‘restraint’
India’s ambassador to the United Nations urged all sides to show “restraint” in the face of rising tensions.
“The immediate priority is de-escalation of tensions, taking into account the legitimate security interests of all countries and aimed towards securing long-term peace and stability in the region and beyond,” T.S. Tirumurti said.
Australia slams Putin’s ‘nonsense’
Prime Minister Scott Morrison slammed as “nonsense” Putin’s claims that the troops being sent into eastern Ukraine were peacekeepers.
“We cannot have threats of violence being used to seek to advantage nation’s positions over others,” he said.
“That is not a peaceful world order that would be achieving that. And so it’s important that like-minded countries who denounce this sort of behaviour do stick together.”