Russia-Ukraine crisis: Invasion a real possibility, says Boris Johnson after Vladimir Putin recognizes independence of Donetsk, Luhansk

New Delhi: Minutes after Russian President Vladimir Putin recognised two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine as independent, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday (February 21, 2022) offered defensive support in a call with the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. 

Boris outlined his grave concern at recent developments in the region and told Zelenskiy that he believed an “invasion was a real possibility in the coming hours and days”.

The two leaders agreed that the West needed to support Ukraine in the event of an invasion but should continue to pursue a diplomatic solution until the last possible second.

Regardless of Putin’s actions, the UK would be steadfast in its full support of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, Boris said.

The British Prime Minister also strongly condemned the Kremlin’s decision to recognise Luhansk and Donetsk as independent states, and said the move made the Minsk agreements and process unworkable. 

Boris added that he was already engaging with partners on the issue and said that the UK would raise it at the United Nations Security Council and Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe in the coming days.

He also told Zelenskiy that the UK had already drawn up sanctions to target those complicit in the violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, and that those measures would come into force from February 22. 

Joe Biden talks to Volodymyr Zelenskiy

US President Joe Biden also spoke with his Ukrainian counterpart to reaffirm the commitment of the United States to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. He also strongly condemned Putin’s decision to purportedly recognize the “independence” of the rebel regions of Ukraine.

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Biden reiterated that the United States would respond swiftly and decisively, in lock-step with its Allies and partners, to further Russian aggression against Ukraine. 

The developments came after Putin, who was joined by Russia-backed separatist leaders, signed 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.

In a lengthy televised address, Putin described Ukraine as an integral part of Russia’s history and said eastern Ukraine was ancient Russian land. 

Putin also said that he was confident that the Russian people would support his decision.

“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,” he said.

With his decision, Putin also brushed off Western warnings that such a step would be illegal, kill off peace negotiations and trigger sanctions.

It is noteworthy that the US says that Russia has massed over 1,50,000 troops in the region, including the separatists in the breakaway regions, and could invade within days.

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

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