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Putin asks parliament for permission to use force outside Russia

Several European leaders said earlier in the day that Russian troops have moved into rebel-held areas in eastern Ukraine



People hold their belongings as they wait to cross from Ukrainian government controlled areas to pro-Russian separatists' controlled territory in Stanytsia Luhanska, the only crossing point open daily, in the Luhansk region. — AP
People hold their belongings as they wait to cross from Ukrainian government controlled areas to pro-Russian separatists' controlled territory in Stanytsia Luhanska, the only crossing point open daily, in the Luhansk region. — AP

By AP

Published: Tue 22 Feb 2022, 8:25 PM

Russian President Vladimir Putin asked the country’s parliament on Tuesday for permission to use military force outside the country — a move that could presage a broader attack on Ukraine after the US said an invasion was already underway there.

Several European leaders said earlier in the day that Russian troops have moved into rebel-held areas in eastern Ukraine after Putin recognised their independence. But it was unclear how large the movements were, and Ukraine and its Western allies have long said Russian troops are fighting in the region. Moscow denies those allegations.

Putin’s letter to the upper house of parliament would formalise a Russian military deployment to the rebel regions. Lawmakers are expected to quickly rubber-stamp Putin’s request during a session on Tuesday.

The White House on Tuesday began referring to Russian troop deployments in eastern Ukraine as an “invasion” after initially hesitating to use the term — a red line that President Joe Biden has said would result in the US levying severe sanctions against Moscow.

“We think this is, yes, the beginning of an invasion, Russia’s latest invasion into Ukraine,” said Jon Finer, principal deputy national security adviser. “An invasion is an invasion and that is what is underway.”

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The White House decided to begin referring to Russia’s actions as an “invasion” because of the situation on the ground, according to a US official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

The administration resisted initially calling the deployment of troops because the White House wanted to see what Russia was actually going to do. After assessing Russian troop movements, it became clear it was a new invasion, the official added.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki also alluded to the Russian action as being an invasion in a twitter post commenting on Germany chancellor Olaf Scholz decision to halt the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline in response to Russia’s actions.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Russia has recognised the rebel regions’ independence “in borders that existed when they proclaimed” their independence in 2014 — broad territories that extend far beyond the areas now under the rebel control and that include the major Black Sea port of Mariupol.

Putin’s move to recognise the territories’ independence opened the door for him to formalise his hold on them and send forces in, though Ukraine and its Western allies have charged Russian troops have been fighting there for years. Moscow denies those allegations.

Condemnation from around the world was quick. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he would consider breaking diplomatic ties with Russia and Kyiv recalled its ambassador in Moscow.

But confusion over what exactly was happening in eastern Ukraine threatened to hobble a Western response. While the US clearly called it an invasion, some other allies hedged.

“Russian troops have entered in Donbas,” the name for the area where the two separatist regions are located, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said in Paris. “We consider Donbas part of Ukraine.”

But in a distinction that could complicate a European and Western response, he added: “I wouldn’t say that (it is) a fully fledged invasion, but Russian troops are on Ukrainian soil.”

Poland’s Defence Ministry and British Health Secretary Sajid Javid also said Russian forces had entered Ukraine’s east, with Javid telling Sky News that “the invasion of Ukraine has begun”.

Not all in Europe saw it that way. Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares noted “if Russia uses force against Ukraine, sanctions will be massive.”

The Kremlin hasn’t confirmed any troop deployments to the rebel east, saying it will depend on the security situation. Vladislav Brig, a member of the separatist local council in Donetsk, told reporters that the Russian troops already had moved in, but more senior rebel leaders didn’t confirm that. Late Monday, convoys of armoured vehicles were seen rolling across the separatist-controlled territories. It wasn’t immediately clear if they were Russian.

In response to the moves thus far, top EU officials said the bloc was prepared to impose sanctions on several Russian officials and banks financing the Russian armed forces and move to limit Moscow’s access to EU capital and financial markets. They gave few details.


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