The United States continues to see preparations for a possible broader invasion that includes loading amphibious ships and equipment for airborne units.
Putin signed the decrees recognizing the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic in a ceremony broadcast on state television earlier on Monday.
A senior US administration official said Russian forces are continuing preparations for an invasion of Ukraine, but diplomacy will continue “until the tanks roll.”
“The Russian forces continued to approach the border,” the official said, noting that they see plans to invade “at any moment.”
The United Nations Security Council is expected to hold an urgent meeting on Monday at 9 p.m. ET at Ukraine’s request, two UN diplomats told CNN. The meeting will be an open session where all member states – including Russia and the US – are expected to make statements.
“We support Ukraine’s call for an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council. The Security Council should demand that Russia respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, which is a member state of the UN,” said US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas Greenfield.
However, the sanctions announced by the White House targeting specific regions were a far cry from the devastating consequences for Russia that Biden and US officials have warned would be imposed in the event of Russia’s invasion, referring to the continuation of comprehensive measures should Moscow continue. Proceed with military action to invade Ukrainian territory.
The United States has refused to determine whether the so-called “peacekeeping” troops sent from Russia to eastern Ukraine would constitute a further invasion of the country.
Instead, the official said, Russian forces have been operating in the Donbass region since Moscow’s first incursion into the country in 2014.
“The movement of Russian forces in the Donbass will not in itself be a new step. Russia has had forces in the Donbass region for the past eight years,” the official said.
The official, who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity, said the United States would monitor Russian actions on the ground, but declined to say whether the troop entry would lead to the raft of sanctions that had been pledged.
“We will monitor and evaluate the measures already taken by Russia and respond accordingly,” the official said.
Biden’s executive order would also allow the United States to impose sanctions on anyone operating in those areas. The White House said it “will soon announce additional measures related to today’s flagrant violation of Russia’s international obligations.”
“To be clear: These actions are separate and will be in addition to the rapid and dangerous economic measures we are preparing in coordination with allies and partners in the event of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki wrote in a statement.
According to the official, the fact that Russian forces may operate more openly in eastern Ukraine may change US calculations.
“There have been Russian forces in the Donbass for eight years now. You know, Russia has denied it. Now, it seems that Russia will act openly in that region and we will respond accordingly.” The official said.
The official said the United States would take additional measures to respond to Russia’s recognition of the breakaway territories on Tuesday.
The United States and Europe condemn Putin’s actions
The US response came on the heels of a lengthy speech by Putin on Monday, in which he attacked both Ukraine and the West before signing decrees recognizing the two controversial breakaway regions. Putin’s announcement comes on the heels of various Russian allegations of provocations over the past several days, which the United States and Ukraine say are false operations used by Moscow to try to make a justification for war.
Western officials fear that Monday’s move is a prelude to a full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine. The United States and other NATO countries have warned that they are ready for tough sanctions if Moscow invades Ukraine, beyond measures announced by the White House on Monday.
NATO and European officials also condemned Putin’s comments. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the move “further undermines” Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
“I condemn Russia’s decision to extend recognition of the ‘Donetsk People’s Republic’ and the ‘Luhansk People’s Republic,'” he said. “This undermines the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, undermines efforts to resolve the conflict, and violates the Minsk Agreements, to which Russia is a party.”
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday that Putin’s recognition of breakaway regions was a “bad omen and a very bleak sign”. British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said on Twitter that the United Kingdom plans to announce new sanctions against Russia on Tuesday.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky delivered a speech Monday evening, after Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba asked the UN Security Council to hold the urgent meeting.
Biden talks with foreign leaders
Biden consulted with Zelensky on a call on Monday afternoon, and then spoke with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Schulz.
US officials have held private talks with Zelensky about going to Lviv, a city more than 300 miles west of the capital Kiev, if such a move becomes necessary as Russia continues to escalate, according to sources familiar with the talks.
The White House has said publicly that Zelensky’s whereabouts are ultimately a decision he makes.
Blinken announced Monday evening that employees of the Lviv Ministry of Foreign Affairs for “security reasons” will “spend the night” in Poland.
“Our staff will return regularly to continue their diplomatic work in Ukraine and provide emergency consular services,” he said. “They will continue to support the Ukrainian people and the Ukrainian government and to coordinate diplomatic efforts,” he added.
While Putin held a national security meeting on Monday before his speech, Biden was consulting with senior US officials at the White House. Blinken, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley, and CIA Director Bill Burns arrived at the White House on Monday, a day off in the United States. Vice President Kamala Harris, who returned Sunday evening from the Munich Security Conference, was also at the White House.
Milley also spoke with his Ukrainian counterpart, Lieutenant General Valery Zalogny, shortly after Putin recognized the independent regions in eastern Ukraine on Monday, according to a spokesman for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The two spoke last week and were in regular contact as Russian forces gathered on Ukraine’s border and began to approach.
Overnight, US officials played down the chances of a France-proposed summit between Biden and Putin, suggesting that the prospects of a Russian invasion of Ukraine made such a meeting highly unlikely. They said that no work has been done on the timing, format or place of holding such a summit.
The senior administration official said, on Monday evening, that such a summit is unlikely following Putin’s orders as well as intelligence information and indications on the ground that indicate the possibility of Russia taking military action in Ukraine.
Speaking on US morning television, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan warned that Russia may be preparing for a conflict more brutal than some initial estimates.
“We believe that any military operation of this scale and scope and scale of what we think the Russians are planning will be very violent. It will cost the lives of Ukrainians and Russians, civilians and military alike. But we also have intelligence that suggests there will be more brutality because this is not just going to be a war Conventional between two armies: It will be a war that Russia will wage on the Ukrainian people to oppress, crush and harm them,” Sullivan said during Monday’s appearance on NBC’s “Today Show.”
“All indications are that President Putin and the Russians are moving forward with a plan to carry out a major military invasion of Ukraine,” Sullivan said on ABC’s channel.
This title and story have been updated with additional developments.
DJ Good, Kylie Atwood, Jennifer Hansler, Oren Lieberman, Kylie Atwood, Sharon Braithwaite, James Frater, Kaitlan Collins and Natasha Bertrand contributed to this report.
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