By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
The order came after Putin recognized the independence of eastern Ukraine’s self-declared Luhansk and Donetsk republics, which Russian-backed separatists control.
The high-ranking diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity, also correctly predicted an invasion would start during or shortly after the Winter Olympics.
The Luhansk and Donetsk republics proclaimed their independence in 2014 – soon after Russia annexed Ukraine’s southern Crimea peninsula.
In 2014-2015 peace agreements were signed – but they failed to stop the fighting against Ukrainian government forces in a conflict that killed some 14,000 people.
Hundreds of thousands of people fled the rebel-held areas, but it is thought that at least 3.6 million as still living there.
Most of the residents speak Russian, a result of a migration of Russian workers to the regions after World War II, during the Soviet Union era.
Moscow has in recent years issued more than 720,000 Russian passports to roughly one-fifth of the region’s population, according to several sources.
With the imminent arrival of more Russian “peacekeeping” troops in the region, Kyiv tried to play down the developments, with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urging the nation not to panic.
He said Ukraine is “not afraid of anyone or anything” as the United Nations Security Council scheduled an emergency meeting for Monday night, and the U.S. moved to impose sanctions.
But it became clear late Monday that following eight years of fighting, Ukraine was losing another part of its territory after Russia annexed the country’s Crimea peninsula in 2014.
The U.S and Britain also fear Russian forces could encircle the Ukrainian capital Kyiv to topple the pro-Western government.
There are some 30,000 Russian troops in nearby Belarus, about 140 miles (225 kilometers) from Kyiv.
Moscow had said it had “no intention” to invade Ukraine, words that were far from providing certainty it wouldn’t happen.
In a televised speech, Putin said Ukraine “had no history of being a true nation,” suggesting his forces may topple the pro-Western government.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a reaction that the move will violate Ukraine’s sovereignty and is a “very dark sign.”
It became increasingly difficult for foreigners to leave the country, with several airlines, including Air France, Lufthansa, and Royal Dutch Airlines KLM suspending flights to Ukraine over invasion fears.
KLM was among the first to suspend operations in Kyiv. It avoided eastern Ukrainian airspace since July 2014 when a Russian missile shot down its code-sharing partner Malaysia Airlines’ flight MH17 killing all 298 passengers and crew.
Most of the killed passengers were Dutch citizens.
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