Hours after officially recognizing the independence of separatist regions in eastern Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian forces to enter the regions for supposed “peacekeeping.”
A senior administration official said during a press call attended by American Military News that in the previous hour, “we’ve seen Russia order troops to deploy to the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) or Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR) regions for peacekeeping.”
The official added that Russian troops have continually moved closer to the Ukrainian border in what appears to be “plans for an invasion at any moment.”
DNR and LNR have been occupied by pro-Russian separatists since 2014 when they were established after a separatist war in the region. Russian forces have already been present throughout, the administration official confirmed.
The decision to recognize the DNR and LNR as sovereign gives Putin the self-justification to send troops to the Russian-backed regions. With that military presence, Putin could be laying the groundwork to capture additional territory for the newly sovereign regions.
“Putin made clear his true design,” the senior administration official said, calling Putin’s move an “attack on the very idea of a sovereign and independent Ukraine.”
The official called Putin’s speech a “speech to the Russian people to justify war.”
In Putin’s speech, he called his decision “long-overdue” and demanded Ukraine “immediately cease military action,” warning it would be responsible for “a continuation of bloodshed.”
Putin reiterated his claim that Ukraine is a nation created solely by Russia and that rejecting its history and seeking to weaken Russia has made the two nations enemies.
Following Putin’s actions, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said, “We have anticipated a move like this from Russia and are ready to respond immediately.”
Shortly after Psaki’s statement, President Joe Biden issued an executive order to prohibit investment, trading, and financing between Americans and the DNR and LNR regions.
Putin’s recognition of DNR and LNR “contradicts Russia’s commitments under the Minsk agreements and further threatens the peace, stability, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of Ukraine, and thereby constitutes an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States,” Biden’s executive order said.
The senior administration official vowed more action against Russia would be coming Tuesday, and was separate from the “harsh consequences” the administration has vowed to inflict on Russia if it chooses an invasion.
Hours after Putin’s decision and troop deployment, reports said that the Biden administration has ordered all remaining U.S. personnel to leave Ukraine.