White House calls Russian moves on Ukraine an invasion

(NewsNation Now) — Russian lawmakers on Tuesday authorized President Vladimir Putin to use military force outside the country — a move that could presage a broader attack on Ukraine after the U.S. said an invasion was already underway there.

Several European leaders said Russian troops rolled into rebel-held areas in eastern Ukraine after Putin recognized their independence. But it was unclear how large the deployment was, and Ukraine and its Western allies have long said Russian troops were fighting in the region, allegations that Moscow always denied.

Members of Russia’s upper house, the Federation Council, voted unanimously to allow Putin to use military force outside the country — effectively formalizing a Russian military deployment to the rebel regions, where an eight-year conflict has killed nearly 14,000 people.

Shortly after, Putin laid out three conditions to end the crisis that has threatened to plunge Europe back into war, raising the specter of massive casualties, energy shortages across the continent and economic chaos around the globe.

Putin said the crisis could be resolved if Kyiv recognizes Russia’s sovereignty over Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula that Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014, renounces its bid to join NATO and partially demilitarizes. The West has decried the annexation of Crimea as a violation of international law and has previously flatly rejected permanently barring Ukraine from NATO.

Asked whether he has sent any Russian troops into Ukraine and how far they could go, Putin responded: “I haven’t said that the troops will go there right now.” He added coyly that “it’s impossible to forecast a specific pattern of action –- it will depend on a concrete situation as it takes shape on the ground.”

World leaders are preparing Tuesday to hit his administration with sanctions as he heightened fears of war with legislation that would allow the deployment of troops to rebel-held regions of eastern Ukraine.

Germany made the first big move. It took steps to halt the process of certifying the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia — a lucrative deal long sought by Moscow but criticized by the U.S. for increasing Europe’s reliance on Russian energy.

The rest of the European Union soon followed, with the first set of sanctions aimed at the 351 Russian lawmakers who voted for recognizing separatist regions in Ukraine, as well as 27 other Russian officials and institutions from the defense and banking world. They also sought to limit Moscow’s access to EU capital and financial markets.

Biden addressed the conflict Tuesday, announcing heavy financial sanctions against Russian banks and oligarchs, declaring that Moscow has flagrantly violated international law by it actions in Ukraine.

“They can no longer raise money from the West and cannot trade in its new debt on our markets, or European markets either,” Biden said.

Biden also said he was also moving additional U.S. troops to the Baltic states on NATO’s eastern flank. 

He said more sanctions could be on the way if Putin proceeds further.

Biden on Monday signed an executive order that prohibits new investment, trade and financing by U.S. persons to, from, or in the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic regions of Ukraine.

“To be clear: 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,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki wrote in a statement announcing the executive order.

A State Department spokesperson told NewsNation Tuesday that Putin’s actions are “another indication that Russia is seeking war, not diplomacy.”

The spokesperson said the U.S. will “continue to consult with our Allies and partners in the coming hours on the way forward. As we have said, we are committed to finding a diplomatic resolution that avoids a brutal and costly conflict, but diplomacy cannot succeed unless Russia changes course.”

Putin signed a decree Monday recognizing the separatist regions of Donetsk and Luhansk as independent states rather than parts of Ukraine, drawing swift condemnation from the West and fears it could unleash a major war.

Following his decision, Putin ushered more troops to the two breakaway regions to “keep the peace.” There was no word on the size of the force Putin was dispatching, but the decree said Russia now had the right to build military bases in the breakaway regions.

War in Ukraine

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