An urgent meeting of the United Nations Security Council is set to convene after Russia recognized two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine and hours later said it would deploy troops there to “maintain peace”.
The United States said the Russian move was an “unprovoked violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity” and backed Ukraine’s call for an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council.
The meeting is expected to take place at 02:00 GMT and could be an open meeting.
Western countries have repeatedly warned Russia not to officially recognize the separatist regions in Donetsk and Luhansk, and undermining the fragile ‘Minsk’ peace agreement in an area that is thought to be home to some four million people.
Russia has been massing its forces around Ukraine’s borders for weeks, raising concerns among the US and other Western governments that might be planning to invade the country. Moscow has insisted it has no plans to do so.
Here are the latest updates:
Biden signs ‘executive order’ on sanctions targeting rebel regions
US President Joe Biden has signed an executive order to ban all new investment, trade, and financing by US citizens to, from, or in the so-called “Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics” regions of Ukraine.
“The EO is designed to prevent Russia from profiting off of this blatant violation of international law. It is not directed at the people of Ukraine or the Ukrainian government and will allow humanitarian and other related activities to continue in these regions, ”Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.
He says the US will work with Ukraine and its allies to take action in response to Putin’s declaration of the eastern rebel regions as “independent”.
Tanks seen on outskirts of Donetsk: Reuters
Reuters news agency is reporting a witness seeing columns of military vehicles including tanks on the streets on the outskirts of Donetsk early on Tuesday.
The Reuters reporter saw about five tanks in a column on the edge of the city and two more in another part of town.
The report says no insignia were visible, and that no tanks had been seen on the streets in previous days.
UN Security Council to meet after Russia move
The United Nations Security Council is due to meet in just over an hour’s time over the Ukraine crisis.
Ukraine called for the meeting and was backed by the United States, as well as other countries.
Russia holds the rotating presidency of the council this month.
Al Jazeera’s Shihab Rattansi, who is in Washington, DC, says that there was some debate over the format of the meeting, with Russia wanting a closed-door session and other countries led by the US pushing for an open discussion.
UK to announce ‘significant’ Russia sanctions on Tuesday
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to announce a “significant package of sanctions” in a few hours.
A spokesperson told the Reuters news agency that the sanctions would be agreed to at a meeting of the United Kingdom government’s crisis response committee at 06:30 GMT and take immediate effect.
‘Brazen’: US calls for urgent UN Security Council meeting
Calling Russia’s move to recognize Luhansk and Donetsk a “brazen attempt to usurp Ukraine’s sovereignty”, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the United States Ambassador to the United Nations has backed Ukraine’s call for an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council.
“The Security Council must demand that Russia respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, a UN Member State,” Thomas-Greenfield said in a statement.
“There can be no fence-sitters in this crisis,” she warned.
We support Ukraine’s call for an urgent meeting of the @UN Security Council. We must all stand with Ukraine in the face of Russia’s brazen attempt to usurp Ukraine’s sovereign territory. There can be no fence-sitters in this crisis. https://t.co/SI81WBLkmZ
– Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield (@USAmbUN) February 21, 2022
Russia to sign military cooperation deals with breakaway regions
The lower house of parliament will consider draft laws to provide military cooperation and border protection to the breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine later on Tuesday.
An agreement signed by Putin and published on Monday shows Russia also plans to build military bases in Donetsk and Luhansk.
Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the Ukraine crisis. I’m Kate Mayberry in Kuala Lumpur.
Read all the updates from Monday, February 21 here.