Geopolitical tensions have grown perilous overnight as Russian President Vladimir Putin, late on Monday, recognised Donetsk and Luhansk, two self-proclaimed and Russian-speaking republics that are a part of the breakaway Donbas region in Ukraine. Russia will also send troops, that is being shown as a peacekeeping force at face value, into the region.
The United States has taken protective actions, starting with slapping sanctions on the breakaway republics, prohibiting investments and finance in the region, so as to prevent Russia from profiteering from them, as announced by President Joe Biden. The US Department of State has announced the extraction of its diplomatic staff from the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, stating that they would spend the night in neighbouring Poland, but would continue to return regularly to provided consular services.
It has also strongly advised all citizens to leave Ukraine.
The United Nations Security Council - the most powerful organ on the international body - had an immediate public meeting following the actions. "Tomorrow, the United States will take further action measures to hold Russia accountable for this clear violation of international law", Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield of the US to the UN said at the meeting. Thomas-Greenfield said that these actions serve as a pretext for a larger expansion into Ukraine.
A statement from the Kremlin also said that Putin had spoken to the French President Emmanuel Macron and to the German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, announcing these moves, adding that the leaders "expressed disappointment over the developments, while also indicating readiness to continue contacts."
These nations, in their statements on Russia's actions, have also expressed disappointment and said that further actions would be taken in co-ordination with allies.
Russian and Western posturing
The moves by Russia follows weeks of rhetoric and diplomacy between them and the West after a Russian military buildup along the Ukrainian border with Russia and Belarus, which Russia called as a military exercise. The initial signs of the buildup were seen late last year, with intelligence reports of Western countries and satellite images confirming with troop figures ranging from 100,000 at the start to around 190,000 troops right now (the latter according to the US), in what is being called by the US the largest troop mobilisation in Europe since the Second World War.
As a response, the West increasingly projected a united front in support of Ukraine under their North Atlantic Treaty Organisation umbrella, sending preparatory aid to Ukraine of varying degree - from a moderate increase in troop presences by the US, to special forces training by the United Kingdom, to lethal equipment aid by Canada, though most of these countries have stopped short of promising explicit massive troop deployment if push comes to shove.
This has also prompted visits to Russia by European leaders, namely Macron, Scholz and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Before today's Russian actions, a French-mediated summit for Biden and Putin was also in the works, with the US-side reportedly giving its in-principle approval for the same, as long as Russia did not further invade Ukraine. The future summit now lies in question after today. US Secretary of State is also scheduled to meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on February 24. In remains to be seen if the meeting will go ahead.
Over this period, occasional shelling has taken place, with Ukraine accusing Russia-backed separatists of hitting a school.
Why is the Donbas region important?
The crisis finds in roots in February 2014, when the Russian-backed president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovich, was ousted following a period of street protests, unrest and turmoil. Russia responded in March by occupying the Crimean peninsula to the South, and justified its occupation through a referendum held in the region, which overwhelmingly favoured joining Russia. The referendum is not recognised as valid by most of the international community, and is considered to be rigged.
In April, separatists entered the Donetsk and Luhansk and declared them to be independent republics, which lie to the east of Ukraine and borders Russia. The Ukranian military went on to retake the region, but the Russian military entered and pushed back. A ragtag peace-deal was signed between the three parties: Russia, Ukraine and the separatists, referred to as 'Minsk-I'. However, in 2015, the peace deal broke down and fighting resumed. A new agreement brokered by Germany and France called 'Minsk-II' was then agreed upon, and has since then formed the bedrock of what the international community recognises as a conduit to peace in the larger Ukranian conflict.
This timeline can be read here.
India, in its speech at the UNSC earlier today, called for all disputes to be resolved peacefully through dialogue in accordance with Minsk-II.
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