Fears of conflict. | ALEXANDER ERMOCHENKO

0

Britain will immediately impose hard economic sanctions on Russia after President Vladimir Putin ordered the deployment of troops to two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said this morning.

"We will immediately institute a package of economic sanctions," Johnson told reporters.
The sanctions, he said, would be "targeted not just at entities in Donbass and Luhansk and Donetsk, but in Russia itself - targeting Russian economic interests as hard as we can."

Putin will find he has "gravely miscalculated" if Russia invades Ukraine, Johnson said, adding that Moscow appeared to be bent on a full scale invasion.
Johnson chaired a meeting of Britain's national emergency security committee early today.

Earlier, Russia's invasion of Ukraine has already begun so Britain will sanction Russia, British Health Secretary Sajid Javid said this morning.

"You can conclude that the invasion of Ukraine has begun," Javid said.

Earlier, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the deployment of troops to two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine after recognising them as independent this morning, accelerating a crisis the West fears could unleash a major war.

A Reuters witness saw tanks and other military hardware moving through the separatist-controlled city of Donetsk after Putin issued a decree recognising the breakaway regions and told Russia's defence ministry to send in forces to "keep the peace".

The moves drew U.S. and European condemnation and vows of new sanctions although it was unclear whether it was Putin's first major step toward a full-scale offensive in Ukraine that Western governments have warned about for weeks.

A senior U.S. official said the deployment to breakaway enclaves already controlled by separatists loyal to Moscow did not yet constitute a "further invasion" that would trigger the harshest sanctions, but that a wider military campaign could come at any time.

There was no word on the size of the force Putin was dispatching, but the decree said Russia now had the right to build military bases in the breakaway regions.
In a lengthy televised address packed with grievances against the West, a visibly angry Putin described Ukraine as an integral part of Russia's history and said eastern Ukraine was ancient Russian lands..

Russian state television showed Putin, joined by Russia-backed separatist leaders, signing a decree recognising the independence of the two Ukrainian breakaway regions - the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic and the Lugansk People's Republic - along with agreements on cooperation and friendship.

Defying Western warnings against such a move, Putin had announced his decision in phone calls to the leaders of Germany and France earlier, the Kremlin said.
Moscow's action may well torpedo a last-minute bid for a summit with U.S. President Joe Biden to prevent Russia from invading Ukraine, which the senior U.S. official said was now in doubt.

Oil jumped to a seven-year high, safe-havens currencies like the yen rallied and U.S. stock futures dived as Europe's eastern flank stood on the brink of war. The rouble extended its losses as Putin spoke, at one point sliding beyond 80 per dollar.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who received a solidarity call from Biden, accused Russia of wrecking peace talks and ruled out territorial concessions in an address to the nation early on Tuesday.

"I deem it necessary to make a decision that should have been made a long time ago - to immediately recognise the independence and sovereignty of the Donetsk People's Republic and the Lugansk People's Republic," Putin said.

A French presidential official said the speech "mixed various considerations of a rigid and paranoid nature".

Putin has for years worked to restore Russia's influence over nations that emerged after the collapse of the Soviet Union, with Ukraine holding an important place in his ambitions.

Russia denies any plan to attack its neighbour, but it has threatened unspecified "military-technical" action unless it receives sweeping security guarantees, including a promise that Ukraine will never join NATO.

Recognition of the separatist-held areas will narrow the diplomatic options to avoid war, since it is an explicit rejection of a seven-year-old ceasefire mediated by France and Germany.

Separately, Moscow said Ukrainian military saboteurs had tried to enter Russian territory in armed vehicles leading to five deaths, an accusation dismissed as "fake news" by Kyiv.
Those developments fit a pattern repeatedly predicted by Western governments, who have accused Russia of preparing to fabricate a pretext to invade by blaming Kyiv for attacks and relying on pleas for help from separatist proxies.

Washington says Russia has massed a force numbering 169,000-190,000 troops in the region, including the separatists in the breakaway regions, and has warned of invasion at any moment.