World reacts with fury to Putin's 'peacekeeping mission': International leaders call for sanctions and warn of global economic crash if war breaks out
- World leaders reacted with fury after Putin ordered troops into eastern Ukraine
- Called for sanctions and warned that a war could cause a global economic crash
- Forces rolled into Donetsk after Russia's Putin recognised region as independent
- West condemned Kremlin's actions but stopped short of branding it an invasion
- US has levied only limited sanctions but promising a tougher response to follow
PUBLISHED: 20:37 AEDT, 22 February 2022 | UPDATED: 20:43 AEDT, 22 February 2022
World leaders today reacted with fury after Russian forces were ordered into eastern Ukraine by President Vladimir Putin on what he called a 'peacekeeping mission'.
International leaders called for sanctions and warned that a war in Ukraine could cause a global economic crash after armoured vehicles were spotted in Donetsk, the main city of one of the two so-called 'republics' that Putin recognised as independent yesterday, in the early hours of this morning.
New Zealand's Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta said there was no basis under international law for Putin to recognize the Ukrainian separatist regions, branding the decision to recognise them as a 'calculated act' to create a 'pretext for invasion'.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida criticised Russia for violating Ukrainian territorial integrity and said his country would discuss possible 'severe actions,' including sanctions, with the international community.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Russia should 'unconditionally withdraw' from Ukrainian territory and stop threatening its neighbours, describing the Kremlin's actions as 'unacceptable, unprovoked and unwarranted'.
Meanwhile South Korean President Moon Jae-in warned Putin to 'respect' Ukraine's sovereignty and territory - and said that 'a military clash against the wishes of the international community... would bring huge ramifications in the politics and economies of not only Europe, but to the whole world.'
Hopes are dwindling that a major conflict can be averted. Putin has ominously vowed 'bloodshed' if Ukraine's troops try to resist him and argued the nation has no history of statehood, was 'created by Lenin', is a corrupt US and NATO vassal, and has been directly threatening Russia's security.
And Putin still has 190,000 troops backed by hundreds of tanks, artillery pieces, fighter jets, heavy bombers and missile batteries encircling Ukraine from three sides - including just a few dozen miles north of the capital, Kiev.
A tank, believed to be Russian, is spotted on a street near the city of Donetsk in separatist-held regions of eastern Ukraine
Ukraine's Military Forces servicemen sit in the back of military truck in the Donetsk on the eastern Ukraine front-line with Russia-backed separatists on February 21
World leaders (pictured, an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council in New York on February 21) today reacted with fury after Russian forces were ordered into eastern Ukraine by President Vladimir Putin on what he called a 'peacekeeping mission'
Putin has ominously vowed 'bloodshed' if Ukraine's troops try to resist him and argued the nation has no history of statehood, was 'created by Lenin', is a corrupt US and NATO vassal, and has been directly threatening Russia's security
Ukraine has demanded severe sanctions against Russia as Western diplomats debated whether Moscow's decision to deploy troops to rebel-held eastern Ukraine is enough to trigger massive economic punishment.
In a statement issued during a visit to Washington, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said he was working with Kyiv's Western friends 'to impose tough sanctions against the Russian Federation.'
The United States, Britain and the European Union all moved to announce new economic sanctions within hours, as European and Russian stocks tumbled and oil prices surged over news of the recognition.
Italy's foreign minister Luigi Di Maio said that EU foreign ministers would give the greenlight to impose sanctions today.
'What happened yesterday with the recognition by Russia of two self-proclaimed republics of the Donbass is unacceptable, and Italy is convinced to proceed with sanctions,' Di Maio said in a video message.
Meanwhile South Korea's Moon has instructed his officials to prepare for the economic fallout in South Korea if the Ukraine crisis worsens and US-backed nations levy stringent economic sanctions on Russia.
South Korea's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Choi Young-sam said diplomats were trying to persuade 63 of its nationals who currently remain in Ukraine to leave.
Japanese Prime Minister Kishida told reporters today that Putin's 'actions are unacceptable, and we express our strong condemnation.' He warned Russia that 'Japan is watching the development with grave concern.'
Japan has a separate territorial dispute with Moscow over four Russian-controlled northern islands taken at the end of World War II. The standoff has prevented the signing of a peace treaty between the two sides.
The global condemnation came amid rising skirmishes in the eastern regions of Ukraine that Western powers believe Russia could use as a pretext for an attack on the Europe-facing democracy that has defied Moscow's attempts to pull it back into its orbit.
New Zealand's Mahuta called for 'urgent diplomatic efforts to find a peaceful resolution' in a statement as she warned 'we are concerned that this is a calculated act by President Putin to create a pretext for invasion, which would be a clear act of aggression.'
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison called for 'like-minded countries who denounce this sort of behavior' to 'stick together'.
'I can assure you that the moment that other countries put in place strong and severe sanctions on Russia, we will be in lockstep with them and we will be moving just as quickly,' he said.
'We are waking up to a very dark day in Europe,' Javid said early today. 'We have seen that Putin has recognised breakaway eastern regions in Ukraine and from the reports we can already tell that he has sent in tanks and troops. From that you can conclude that the invasion of Ukraine has begun.'
Pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine celebrated on Monday evening as fireworks went off following Russian President Vladimir Putin signing a decree recognizing two Eastern Ukrainian regions as 'independent republics'
Ukrainian servicemen are seen outside of Svitlodarsk, Ukraine on February 21
Vladimir Putin today chaired a meeting of Russia's full security council, with top aides getting to their feet one by one to lay out the case for war in Ukraine
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, speaking moments later, said a 'first barrage of UK economic sanctions against Russia' will be revealed today - though stopped short of calling last night's move an 'invasion', saying instead that Putin is 'bent on a full scale invasion.'
Josep Borrell, the EU's foreign policy chief, avoided the word 'invasion' as he vowed sanctions against Russia this morning - acknowledging that 'Russian troops are on Ukrainian soil' but adding: 'I wouldn't say that's a fully fledged invasion'.
The threat of new sanctions underscores the West's difficulty in preventing a military conflict that's long been portrayed as inevitable.
NATO-member Turkey, which has close relations to both Ukraine and Russia, criticised Russia's decision to recognise the independence of the regions in eastern Ukraine.
A Turkish Foreign Ministry statement released today said: 'We find this decision by Russia unacceptable and reject it.'
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke by phone with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba to reaffirm US support for Ukraine.
The White House issued an executive order to restrict investment and trade in the separatist regions, and additional measures - likely sanctions - were to be announced on Tuesday.
Those sanctions are independent of what Washington has prepared in the event of a Russian invasion, according to a senior administration official who briefed reporters on the condition of anonymity.
Russian tanks an armoured vehicles are seen in what observers described as 'battle formation' close to the border with Ukraine today, with a 'Z' symbol painted on the sides which is believed to denote a battle group
Russia has moved its forces to within three miles of the Ukrainian border, with tanks spotted on manoeuvres in Kursk (left) at the weekend and support trucks in Belgorod (right) on Monday
At the United Nations, meanwhile, an emergency meeting of the Security Council on Monday night was called by Ukraine, the US and six other countries.
Russia's UN ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said the United States and its Western allies were egging on Ukraine toward 'an armed provocation.'
Nebenzia accused Ukraine of sharply increasing shelling in residential areas of the separatist regions over the past weekend as well as in some Russian towns and villages near the border.
Ukraine's UN ambassador demanded that Russia cancel its recognition of the independence of the separatist regions, immediately withdraw its 'occupation troops' sent there by Putin and return to negotiations.
Sergiy Kyslytsya condemned Putin's 'illegal and illegitimate' decision to recognize the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
China, a traditional ally of Russia, sounded a cautious note, calling for restraint and a diplomatic solution to the crisis.
Still, President Joe Biden and Putin tentatively agreed to a meeting brokered by French President Emmanuel Macron in a last-ditch effort to avoid war.
If Russia moves in, the meeting will be off.
Ukraine and the West have accused Russia of supporting the separatists with arms and troops, but Moscow has denied that, saying that Russians who fought there were volunteers.