(The Hill) – Russian President Vladimir Putin has reportedly ordered troops to Ukraine’s separatist regions to carry out “peacekeeping functions” hours after stoking global condemnation for signaling his intention to recognize the breakaway areas.
In decrees released late Monday, Putin ordered his defense ministry to send forces to maintain peace in the two separatist-held regions in eastern Ukraine, The New York Times reported. However, it was not immediately clear from reports if troops would enter areas outside those controlled by separatists.
Putin’s order comes after he said that Moscow would recognize the regions, known as the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic, as independent, a move that signaled a rejection of diplomatic efforts to cease fighting.
“I consider it necessary to take a long-overdue decision: To immediately recognize the independence and sovereignty of Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic,” Putin said, according to The Associated Press.
In response to that move, the White House said President Biden intended to sign an executive order prohibiting new U.S. investment, trade and financing from the Donetsk and Luhansk enclaves while other Western leaders condemned Russia’s decision as a breach of international law.
“We have anticipated a move like this from Russia and are ready to respond immediately,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said, noting that the move was a “blatant violation of Russia’s international commitments.”
The U.S. has cautioned that Russia could invade Ukraine at any time after Moscow amassed as many as 190,000 troops near Ukraine.