Putin ordered Russian troops into eastern Ukraine in what the Kremlin called a “peacekeeping” mission in the Moscow-backed regions.
US Secretary of State Tony Blinken on Tuesday canceled his scheduled meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov later this week in protest against what he said was the beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, who jointly addressed a news conference with Blinken at the Foggy Bottom headquarters of the State Department, said that the world must respond with all its economic might to punish Russia for the crimes it has already committed and ahead of the crimes it plans to commit.
“Hit Russia’s economy now and hit it hard,” he said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday signed decrees to recognize Ukraine’s regions of “Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics” as “independent”, escalating the tension in the region and increasing fears of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. He also ordered Russian troops into eastern Ukraine in what the Kremlin called a “peacekeeping” mission in the Moscow-backed regions.
Responding to questions, Blinken said that further renewed Russian invasion of Ukraine that has now begun means clearly that the idea of having a meeting this week with Foreign Minister Lavrov to pursue diplomacy, now rejected by Russia, does not make sense.
The two leaders were scheduled to meet in Europe on February 24.
“But having said that, to the extent, there is anything that we can do to avert an even worst-case scenario, an all-out assault on all of Ukraine including its capital, that would inflict horrific costs on the Ukrainian people, we will always pursue that,” the secretary of state said, noting that the US and its allies remain open to diplomacy, but Moscow needs to demonstrate that it’s serious.
Blinken alleged that Putin has all along planned to invade Ukraine, to control Ukraine and its people, to destroy Ukraine’s democracy, which offers a stark contrast to the autocracy that he leads, to reclaim Ukraine as a part of Russia.
“That’s why this is the greatest threat to security in Europe since World War II. Ukraine is in danger.
“President Putin is blatantly and violently breaking the laws and principles that have kept the peace across Europe and around the world for decades. Yesterday at an emergency session of the UN Security Council requested by Ukraine, the United States and many other countries condemned Russia’s renewed attack on Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity as a violation of international law and the United Nations Charter,” Blinken said.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Kuleba said that the entire world stands today with Ukraine.
“Putin wants much more than a war-torn piece of Ukrainian land and people living there. What stops him is only our unity and resolve, and we can still stop him. Ukraine continues the engagement with the United States, EU, and NATO in diplomatic efforts to ease tensions,” he said.
Kuleba called for sustained pressure on Russia.
“If that involves regular issuance of executive orders or new sanctions, we will be more than happy to see that,” Kuleba added.