By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
MOSCOW/BUDAPEST (Worthy News) – Europe was edging closer to war on Monday after Russian President Vladimir Putin recognized two separate eastern Ukraine regions and called the U.S.-led NATO military alliance an “existential threat to Russia.”
Global markets were plunging as the tensions sparked the worst crisis between the United States and Russia since the two nuclear superpowers declared an end to the Cold War in the early 1990s. Already in Russia, the rouble tanked on Monday, slipping past 80 against the dollar, while stocks plunged to their lowest in over a year.
As the crisis unfolded, the White House said President Joe Biden ordered new sanctions on Russia because Putin declared the breakaway Luhansk and Donetsk regions independent.
The Biden administration called Monday’s perceived indirect declaration of war by Putin a “blatant violation of Russia’s international commitments.”
U.S. sanctions will prohibit new investment, trade, and financing in the two separatist regions of Ukraine recognized by Putin. Additionally, the European Union’s top officials also said the 27-nation bloc would impose sanctions.
Despite Western punitive measures, Putin signed decrees in the Kremlin recognizing the eastern Ukrainian regions’ independence.
And in a move increasing the standoff with NATO, he urged lawmakers to approve measures paving the way for military support to Eastern Ukraine.
A high-ranking U.S. security source told Worthy News there are already Russian forces in eastern Ukraine.
In a carefully scripted pre-recorded speech, President Putin justified his decision blaming NATO for the current crisis and saying the U.S.-led alliance was “an existential threat to Russia.”
“I consider it necessary to take a long-overdue decision: To immediately recognize the independence and sovereignty of Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic,” Putin said.
Sweeping through more than a century of history, he painted today’s Ukraine as a modern construct inextricably linked to Russia.
He claimed that Ukraine had inherited Russia’s historic lands and, after the Soviet Union’s collapse, was used by the West to contain Russia before signing the decrees.
His words added to fears among Western leaders that Putin wouldn’t limit military action to eastern Ukraine or to the Crimea peninsula, which Russia annexed in 2014.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson already warned Sunday that intelligence suggested Russia planned to launch an invasion that would encircle the Ukrainian capital Kyiv. “The plan that we are seeing is for something that could be the biggest war in Europe since 1945,” he said.
He added that “you are looking at not just an invasion through the east through the Donbas region [of Eastern Ukraine].”
Johnson said, “according to intelligence that we are seeing [Russian troops would be] coming down from the north, down from Belarus and encircling Kyiv itself as [U.S. President] Joe Biden explained to us last night.”
Kyiv tried to play down the standoff, even while tens of thousands of Russian troops were just 140 miles (225 kilometers) away down a newly paved highway to Ukraine’s capital.
Yet, the recognition of two eastern Ukrainian republics remained a fundamental blow to the government’s country eight years after fighting erupted.
Clashes in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions between Russia-backed separatists and Ukrainian forces claimed 14,000 lives since 2014.
Still remembering the 1990s wars in Europe between breakaway republics in then Yugoslavia, European Union leaders condemned Putin’s move to recognize breakaway republics in Ukraine.
In a joint statement, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Council President Charles Michel called it “a blatant violation of international law.”
They warned, without elaborating, that the bloc “will react with sanctions.”
French President Emmanuel Macron condemned the Russian decision and called for an immediate United Nations Security Council meeting and “targeted European sanctions.”
But with up to 190,000 Russian troops near and in Ukraine, Moscow seemed determined to expand its sphere of influence in Europe.
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