January 29, 2023

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The Latest: EU says Russia's moves are 'an act of war'

The Latest: EU says Russia’s moves are ‘an act of war’

The latest news on the Russian-Ukrainian crisis (All times are local time):

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BRUSSELS – A senior European Union official said Russia’s recognition of Ukraine’s breakaway regions of Luhansk and Donetsk as independent states and sending troops into the territory is an “act of war”.

The European Commissioner for Justice, Didier Reynders, said the 27-nation bloc was ready to implement sanctions against Russia.

Speaking to Belgium’s RTBF channel, Reynders said a unanimous agreement was needed from EU member states to impose new sanctions.

He said that the expected measures will develop gradually, depending on the Russian actions. The first type is travel bans on individuals and sanctions against economic entities through confiscation of assets in Europe and abroad.

In addition, Reynders said, “It will be necessary to ensure that there are no more imports of goods or services from Russia, such as energy, and to end Russia’s global access to financial services.”

“Everything is on the table,” he said, adding that member states were discussing how the moves would be incremental and the possibility of diplomacy to ease the conflict.

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ATHENS, Greece – Greece on Tuesday strongly condemned Moscow’s recognition of two breakaway republics in Ukraine, as the country’s prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, called an emergency meeting of the government’s top defense and foreign policy officials to discuss the crisis.

“Russia’s recognition of the illegal and unilateral declaration of the ‘independence’ of the separatist Donetsk and Luhansk territories of Ukraine is a clear violation of the fundamental principles of international law, the territorial integrity of Ukraine, and the Minsk agreements,” a statement from the foreign ministry said. “We have repeatedly emphasized that Greece supports respect for the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of all states and we condemn any decision that contradicts these basic principles of international law.”

Greece, a NATO member, has traditionally friendly relations with Russia.

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United Nations – Ukraine’s ambassador to the United Nations demanded that Russia rescind its recognition of the independence of the separatist regions in the east, immediately withdraw the “occupation forces” sent there by President Vladimir Putin, and return to negotiations.

Speaking at an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council on Monday, Sergei Kislitsia said Ukraine had called a rare evening session to protest and condemn Putin’s “illegal and illegitimate” decision to recognize the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

He said that Ukraine’s borders “will remain unchanged regardless of any statements and actions of the Russian Federation.”

He said Russia’s occupation of Donetsk and Luhansk spoils the negotiating frameworks and “can be considered” Russia’s unilateral withdrawal from the Minsk Accords aimed at restoring peace to eastern Ukraine.

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“We are committed to a political-diplomatic settlement and do not succumb to provocations,” Kiselzia said.

While Ukraine is entitled to self-defense, he said, “We are committed to a peaceful and diplomatic path and will continue to do so steadfastly. We are on our own land. We are not afraid of anything or anyone. We owe nothing to anyone, and we will not concede anything to anyone.”

Kiselitsya urged the Security Council to support Ukraine and take measures to restore international peace and security, but that would be nearly impossible due to Russia’s veto power in the council.

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ANKARA, Turkey – Turkey has criticized Russia’s decision to recognize the independence of two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine, describing the move as a “clear violation of Ukraine’s political unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity”.

In a statement, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in the early hours of Tuesday morning: “We consider this decision of Russia unacceptable and reject it.”

“We affirm our commitment to preserving Ukraine’s political unity and territorial integrity, and we call on all parties to use common sense and comply with international law,” the ministry statement read.

NATO member Turkey has close ties with both Ukraine and Russia and has repeatedly offered to mediate to end tensions.

Separately, the Turkish Foreign Ministry issued a statement “strongly recommending” that Turkish citizens leave the eastern regions of Ukraine.

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Seoul, South Korea – South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said it had great concerns about the Ukraine crisis and called on the countries concerned to respect the Minsk Agreement while finding a diplomatic solution.

Ministry spokesman Choi Young-sam also said on Tuesday that diplomats were still trying to persuade 63 South Koreans in Ukraine to leave. There were about 600 South Koreans in Ukraine at the end of January.

“Our government has consistently supported Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial preservation,” Choi said.

President Moon Jae-in earlier called on officials to prepare for economic repercussions in South Korea if the Ukraine crisis drags on.

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United Nations – Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations accused the United States and its Western allies of inciting Ukraine to an “armed provocation”.

Speaking at an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council on Monday evening, Vasily Nebenzia accused Ukraine of sharply increasing bombing in residential areas in the breakaway regions of Luhansk and Donetsk and in Russian towns and villages close to the border.

He said Ukraine had concentrated a military force of 120,000 soldiers along the line of contact with pro-Russian separatists in the east and that “subversive groups” had penetrated or attempted to penetrate the territory known as Donbas to sabotage vital infrastructure.

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“So it became clear that Donbass is on the verge of a new Ukrainian military adventure, as it was already in 2014 and 2015,” he said.

This is why President Vladimir Putin announced earlier on Monday that Russia would recognize Luhansk and Donetsk as independent states and put Russian forces in the two countries as peacekeepers, Nebenzia said.

On Monday, the separatist authorities said that at least four civilians were killed in Ukrainian shelling in the past 24 hours, and several others were wounded. The Ukrainian military said two Ukrainian soldiers were killed over the weekend and another was wounded on Monday. Ukrainian military spokesman Pavlo Kovalchuk insisted that Ukrainian forces did not return fire.

Nebenzia said Russia was open to diplomacy but would not allow “a new bloodbath in the Donbass,” and urged the United States and other Western countries not to worsen the situation.

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UNITED NATIONS – China called for restraint and encouraged every effort to find a diplomatic solution to the Ukraine crisis, saying that Beijing believes that all countries should resolve disputes by peaceful means in line with the United Nations Charter.

China’s ambassador to the United Nations, Zhang Jun, called on the main parties in the Ukraine conflict to “continue dialogue and consultation and seek reasonable solutions.”

Zhang made very brief remarks at an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council on Monday night called by Ukraine, the United States and six other countries after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Russia would recognize the breakaway regions of eastern Ukraine as independent countries and establish Russia. Troops in Luhansk and Donetsk as peacekeepers.

The Chinese ambassador did not refer to the measures taken by his usual ally, Russia, on Monday, saying only that “all parties concerned should exercise restraint, avoid any action that might inflame tensions”, and “welcome and encourage every effort for a diplomatic solution.” . “

Chinese state media reported that the Chinese Embassy in Kiev notified its citizens in Ukraine to raise their awareness of safety and avoid conflict areas.

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TOKYO – Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida criticized Russia for violating Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and said his country would discuss possible “strong measures”, including sanctions, with the international community.

Kishida was responding to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s signing on Monday of a decree recognizing the independence of two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine and ordering his forces to “keep peace” in those regions. Putin’s announcement raised fears of an imminent invasion.

“These actions are unacceptable and we express our strong condemnation,” Kishida told reporters on Tuesday. “Japan is watching the development with great concern.”

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Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said on Tuesday that it is important that the Group of Seven nations that share values ​​such as democracy and rule of law stick together and lead the international community.

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UNITED NATIONS – The US ambassador to the United Nations has dismissed as “nonsense” Russian President Vladimir Putin’s announcement of Russian forces in the separatist regions of eastern Ukraine as “nonsense”, saying their presence is “clearly the basis for Russia’s attempt to create a pretext for further invasion of Ukraine” .

Linda Thomas Greenfield told an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council on Monday night that the move and Putin’s earlier announcement of Russia’s recognition of the breakaway regions as “independent states” also represented an “unprovoked” attack on Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. She said Putin’s actions “tore to shreds of the Minsk Agreement”.

Thomas Greenfield said Putin “has put before the world a choice” and “must not look away” because “history tells us that looking the other way in the face of such hostility would be a much more costly path.”

She said Putin is testing to see “how far he can push all of us”, and all countries must stand up for the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of all countries.

Thomas Greenfield warned that “the consequences of Russia’s actions will be dire – throughout Ukraine, across Europe, and throughout the world.”

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WELLINGTON, New Zealand – New Zealand Foreign Minister Nanaya Mahuta has said there is no basis under international law for recognizing breakaway regions, and that Russia is thus undermining Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

We are concerned that this is a calculated act by President Putin to create a pretext for the invasion, and is clearly aggressive. “We once again call for urgent diplomatic efforts to find a peaceful solution,” Mahuta said in a statement.

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TRIBONA, Australia – Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said Russia must “unconditionally withdraw” from Ukrainian territory and stop threatening its neighbors.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday ordered troops to “maintain peace” in separatist regions of eastern Ukraine, hours after the Kremlin recognized the region’s independence. The announcement raised fears that the invasion was imminent, if not already under way.

Speaking at a news conference on Tuesday in the Australian state of Tasmania, Morrison said Russia’s actions were “unacceptable, unjustified and unjustified.”

“It is important that like-minded countries denouncing this type of behavior abide, and I can assure you that the moment other countries impose strong and severe sanctions on Russia, we will be cooperating with them,” he said. .