Russia faces new sanctions as war fears rise

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  • The White House announces that new sanctions will be announced on Tuesday
  • Ukraine says two soldiers killed in shelling
  • Unmarked tanks seen in separatist capital Donetsk
  • World markets shaken, oil hits 7-year high

MOSCOW/DONETSK, Feb 22 (Reuters) – Russia faced the prospect of tough new Western sanctions on Tuesday after President Vladimir Putin recognized two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine and ordered the deployment of troops, heightening Western fears of a major war in Europe.

Ukraine said two soldiers had been killed and 12 injured in shelling by pro-Russian separatists in the east over the past 24 hours, and reported fresh hostilities on Tuesday morning.

A Reuters reporter saw tanks and other military equipment drive through the separatist-controlled city of Donetsk overnight, but no insignia were visible on the vehicles.

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Western leaders are trying to determine what Putin will do next and whether Russia is planning a full-scale invasion of Ukraine after massing troops near the borders of its ex-Soviet neighbor and demanding an overhaul of security arrangements in Europe.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has said his country may sever diplomatic ties with Moscow. Read more

Russia’s parliament was due to ratify treaties with the two breakaway regions on Tuesday, and growing war fears pushed oil prices to a seven-year high on Tuesday, as safe-haven currencies including the yen rallied and stocks around the world fell. Read more

Putin’s announcement on Monday and his signing of a decree on the deployment of Russian troops to “maintain peace” in the two breakaway regions drew international condemnation.

US President Joe Biden has signed an executive order to end the US business in the separatist regions and EU officials met to discuss sanctions. The head of European diplomacy on Tuesday promised the first punitive measures. Read more

“We have to make sure that whatever happens Russia will feel the pain…to make sure Russia has absolutely no incentive to go any further,” Irish Europe minister said. , Thomas Byrne.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, US ambassador to the United Nations, said the description of Russian troops as peacekeepers was “nonsense”.

“We can, want and must remain united in our calls for Russia to withdraw its forces, return to the diplomatic table and work for peace,” she told reporters after an emergency meeting of the White House Security Council Monday evening.

A senior US official said the deployment of Russian troops in breakaway regions did not deserve the toughest sanctions the US and its allies had prepared for a full-scale invasion, because Russia already had troops.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov dismissed the threat of sanctions, saying the West would impose them no matter what.

“Our European, American, British colleagues will not stop and calm down until they have exhausted all their possibilities for the so-called punishment of Russia,” he said.

Russia has denied plans to attack its neighbor but has threatened ‘military-technical’ action unless it receives sweeping security guarantees, including a pledge that Ukraine will never join the NATO.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said recognition of the two regions did not affect Russia’s readiness for talks with the United States, Tass news agency reported.

WEST CONSIDERS HIS OPTIONS

Britain said it had drawn up sanctions to target accomplices in violating Ukraine’s territorial integrity, and the measures would come into effect on Tuesday.

A British senior minister said the situation was as dire as the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, when a confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union brought the world to the brink of nuclear war.

“You can conclude that the invasion of Ukraine has started,” Health Secretary Sajid Javid said.

China expressed concern and urged all parties to exercise restraint while Japan said it was ready to join international sanctions against Moscow in the event of a full-scale invasion. Turkey said Russian recognition of the two regions was unacceptable.

Syria’s foreign minister said Syria supported Moscow’s decision to recognize the two breakaway regions, state television reported. Syria has been indebted to Putin ever since his forces helped turn the tide of a civil war in favor of President Bashar al-Assad.

Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions – collectively known as Donbass – broke away from Ukrainian government control in 2014 and proclaimed themselves independent “people’s republics”.

It was not immediately clear whether Russian troops would remain in territory controlled by the separatists or seek to capture territory beyond them, a move that would increase the likelihood of conflict.

Britain’s defense minister suggested that some of the territory Putin recognized lay outside the current frontline. Read more

In a lengthy televised address on Monday filled with grievances against Ukraine and the West, Putin said eastern Ukraine was former Russian land and expressed frustration that Russia’s demands for a rewrite of arrangements of Europe’s security have been postponed. Read more .

Putin has worked for years to restore Russia’s influence over the nations that emerged after the collapse of the Soviet Union, with Ukraine looming large in his ambitions. Russia annexed Crimea to Ukraine in 2014, triggering Western sanctions.

The ruble extended its losses as Putin spoke, at one point slipping past 80 to the dollar, its lowest level in nearly two years, but then recovered the lost ground. Russian stocks, however, fell. learn more[nL1N2UX0D4[nL1N2UX0D4[nL1N2UX0D4[nL1N2UX0D4

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Reports from Reuters offices; Written by Stephen Coates and Timothy Heritage; Editing by Robert Birsel, Gerry Doyle and

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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