THE HAGUE – From capitals around the world, leaders have condemned Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recognition of two pro-Russia regions in eastern Ukraine as independent and his order to send troops there. The U.S., European Union and U.K. announced tough economic sanctions, warning more would follow if Putin proceeds further.
Governments also warned of a global fallout from the crisis over Ukraine, which was evident Tuesday as oil prices rose, stock markets fell.
Top things to know Tuesday about the conflict over Ukraine and the security crisis in Eastern Europe:
AN INITIAL RESPONSE
President Joe Biden announced the U.S. was ordering heavy financial sanctions against Russia, declaring that Moscow had flagrantly violated international law in what he called the “beginning of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.”
Biden said more sanctions would be on the way if Putin proceeds further. This initial round includes cutting off two large Russian financial institutions from the U.S. financial system. The new sanctions also target Russia's sovereign debt as well as five individuals, men close to Putin or their wealthy sons.
The U.S. president also said he was moving additional U.S. troops to the Baltic states on NATO’s eastern flank bordering Russia.
The European Union and U.K. also announced their own initial sanctions targeting Russian officials over their actions in Ukraine.
WHAT'S HAPPENING ON THE GROUND IN EASTERN UKRAINE?
Convoys of armored vehicles were seen rolling across Ukraine's separatist-controlled territories late Monday. It wasn’t immediately clear if they were Russian, but NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said Tuesday that “we saw last night that further Russian troops moved into the Donbas into parts of Donetsk and Lugansk.”
A vaguely worded decree signed by Putin late Monday cast his order for troops in the separatist territories as an effort to “maintain peace.”
On Tuesday, Russian lawmakers gave Putin permission to use military force outside the country — a move that could presage a broader attack on Ukraine after the U.S. said an invasion was already underway.
Russian officials haven’t yet acknowledged any troop deployments, but Vladislav Brig, a member of the separatist local council in Donetsk, told reporters that Russian troops already had moved in, taking up positions in the region’s north and west.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told U.K. lawmakers that Russian tanks were already in eastern Ukraine.
WHAT IS UKRAINE"S RESPONSE?
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy sought to project calm, telling the country in an address overnight: “We are not afraid of anyone or anything."
Zelenskyy said Tuesday he was calling up some of the country’s military reservists, but added there was no need for a full military mobilization.
Protesters, some draped in Ukrainian flags, gathered outside the Russian Embassy in Kyiv. One held up a sign that read: “We choose Europe not Russia.”
WHAT IS NATO SAYING ABOUT RUSSIAN MOVES?
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says Russia is taking military action against Ukraine and he condemned Moscow’s decision to recognize separatist areas of southeast Ukraine as independent.
“Moscow has now moved from covert attempts to destabilize Ukraine to overt military action,” Stoltenberg told reporters Tuesday.
Asked whether Russia’s actions constitute an invasion, he said: “Russia has already invaded Ukraine, they invaded Ukraine back in 2014,” when Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula. He added that “what we see now is that a country that is already invaded is suffering further invasion.”
Stoltenberg said NATO allies have more than 100 jet planes on high alert and more than 120 warships ready at sea from the high north to the Mediterranean Sea.
He said the NATO response force remains on high readiness but is not yet being deployed, although some allies are moving troops, ships and planes into the Baltic states and near the Black Sea to defend NATO allies.
GERMANY MOVES TO HALT GAS PIPELINE CERTIFICATION
Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Germany has taken steps to halt the process of certifying the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia, as he slammed Putin's actions on Ukraine as a “serious break of international law.”
The decision is a significant move for the German government, which had long resisted pulling the plug on the project despite pressure from the United States and some European countries to do so.
Scholz told reporters in Berlin it was necessary to “send a clear signal to Moscow that such actions won’t remain without consequences.” He said it is now “up to the international community to react to this one-sided, incomprehensible and unjustified action by the Russian president.
Washington has for years argued that building another pipeline bringing natural gas from Russia to Germany increases Europe’s reliance on Russian energy supplies.
WHAT THE U.K. AND EUROPEAN UNION ARE DOING
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says his government is slapping sanctions on five Russian banks and three wealthy men close to Putin over Russia’s latest military moves on Ukraine.
Johnson told lawmakers that sanctions would hit Rossiya Bank, IS Bank, General Bank, Promsvyazbank and the Black Sea Bank.
He said three Russian oligarchs with interests in energy and infrastructure -- Gennady Timchenko, Boris Rotenberg and Igor Rotenberg -- will have their assets frozen and be banned from traveling to the U.K.
Johnson accused Putin of “establishing the pretext for a full-scale offensive” against Ukraine and said “further powerful sanctions” would follow, if that happened.
Top European Union officials said the bloc is set to impose sanctions on several Russian officials and banks financing the Russian armed forces as part of moves to limit Moscow’s access to EU capital and financial markets.
IS THERE STILL ROOM FOR DIPLOMACY?
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken says he has canceled plans to meet his Russian counterpart in Geneva later this week.
Blinken told reporters on Tuesday that Russia’s actions indicated Moscow was not serious about a diplomatic path to resolving the crisis. As a result, he said, he had called off his Thursday meeting with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
Echoing President Joe Biden, Blinken said Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to recognize the independence of two separatist republics in Ukraine’s Donbas region was a violation of international law. And, he said the placement of Russian troops there constituted the beginning of an invasion.
Although he held out hope for a peaceful resolution through diplomacy, Blinken said he did not believe a meeting with Lavrov would be productive at this time.
Biden and Putin had tentatively agreed earlier to a meeting brokered by French President Emmanuel Macron in a last-ditch effort to avoid war, but its prospects were unclear given the latest developments. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said “it’s premature to talk about specific plans for a summit.”
Associated Press writers around the world contributed to this report.
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