Concerning footage has revealed “columns of equipment” from Russia entering Ukraine, sparking fears war is imminent.
Tensions in Europe have skyrocketed after Russian President Vladimir Putin made a provocative, unexpected move insiders believe has escalated the threat of all-out war.
Mr Putin has officially acknowledged two pro-Russian, rebel Ukrainian territories, recognising them as independent regions – and immediately sending in troops for “peacekeeping”.
Footage has already shown “columns of equipment” from Russia entering Ukraine, sparking fears war is imminent.
It comes as Russia claimed that five Ukrainian “saboteurs” have been killed while attempting to breach the border, and after US President Joe Biden and Mr Putin yesterday agreed in principle to participate in a summit over the Ukraine crisis – on the proviso Russia does not invade the nation.
However, today’s bombshell announcement could threaten that historic summit.
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As the crisis rages on, US intelligence has this week revealed that Mr Putin has given the order for his troops to invade Ukraine, with the Russian army now poised to strike.
Around three-quarters of Russia’s total forces have reportedly been deployed against Ukraine, with almost 200,000 Russian and separatist forces positioned in the area near the border.
Read on for the latest live updates.
Invasion ‘appears to have started’
Armoured vehicles have been filmed crossing the border from Russia into Ukraine, which one expert has taken as a sign that the invasion was now underway,
Hans Kristensen, the director of the Federation of American Scientist’s Nuclear Information Project, has taken to Twitter this morning to share information that the Russian invasion “appears to have started” just hours after Vladimir Putin broke international law to recognise two rebel Ukrainian regions.
He also shared footage from the 301 news network which show “columns of equipment” from the Russian Federation entering the territories of the republics of Donbas.
According to independent Russian news agency Interfax, eyewitnesses have claimed “two columns of armoured vehicles are on the territory of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and follow to the north and west of the republic”.
Troops sent to rebel regions
Moscow has ordered troops to the two rebel Ukrainian regions in a decree released almost immediately after Mr Putin earlier recognised the territories in a sensational move.
According to the New York Times, the Kremlin has since ordered Russia’s defence ministry to send forces to the pro-Russian regions to carry out “peacekeeping functions” in the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics.
It’s not yet known whether troops will stay in the area controlled by the separatist republics, or progress further.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a tweet he was “urgently preparing an address” in response to the move, and that he had been speaking with world leaders.
ScoMo slams Russia’s ‘nonsense’ peacekeeping claim
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has dismissed Moscow’s claim that troops were being sent to Ukraine’s rebel regions for “peacekeeping” reasons.
“Some suggestion they are peacekeeping is nonsense. They have moved in on Ukrainian sovereign territory,” Mr Morrison said on Tuesday morning.
“While I hope for the best in terms of diplomatic efforts that are being pursued … trying to avoid a violent confrontation with terrible human consequences. We cannot have threats of violence.
“The moment other countries put in place strong and severe sanctions on Russia, we will be in lock step and moving just as quickly.
“Russia should step back. It should unconditionally withdraw. It’s unacceptable, it’s unprovoked, it’s unwarranted.”
UN condemns Putin act
The United Nations has responded to Putin’s ordering of troops into two breakaway Ukrainian regions, with UN Secretary-General António Guterres revealing he was “deeply concerned” by the escalation in a statement.
“He calls for the peaceful settlement of the conflict in eastern Ukraine in accordance with the Minsk agreement as endorsed by the UN Security Council in 2015. The Secretary-General considers the decision of the Russian Federation to be a violation of territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine and inconsistent with the charter of the United Nations, “ the statement reads.
“The United Nations remains fully supportive of the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognised borders.
“The Secretary-General urges all relevant actors to focus their efforts on ensuring an immediate cessation of hostilities, protection of civilians and civilian infrastructure, preventing any action and statements that may further escalate the dangerous situation in and around Ukraine and prioritising diplomacy to address all issues peacefully.”
World leaders have also joined the widespread condemnation, including Canada’s Justin Trudeau.
Two words show Putin ready for war
In what’s been seen as a violation of international law, Russian President Vladimir Putin has sensationally signed a decree recognising two Ukrainian rebel regions in a move that will drastically increase tensions in the region.
The move means Putin has acknowledged the pro-Russian breakaway regions – the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR), which are located in eastern Ukraine – as separate regions from Ukraine.
The decision has disappointed the West, and threatens to scupper a planned summit between Mr Putin and Joe Biden, which is due to be held provided Russia does not invade Ukraine.
In a televised address, Putin claimed Ukraine was part of Russia’s history and had never been an independent nation.
“If Ukraine was to join NATO it would serve as a direct threat to the security of Russia,” he said.
But according to Moscow-based Financial Times reporter Max Seddon, two words most of us missed in Mr Putin’s address reveal that war is now all but inevitable.
Towards the end of the address, Mr Putin claimed Ukraine was responsible for violence in the Donbas region, and vowed Ukraine would be held responsible for the “ensuing bloodshed”.
Mr Seddon tweeted that those crucial words proved “This is only the beginning. The speech made it clear: war’s on the table”.
Russian troops ‘just 3.4km from Ukrainian border’
Alarming new footage has revealed Russian forces storming towards the Ukrainian border, with troops now just 3.4km away.
In a video shared on Twitter by Yeshiva World News reporter Moshe Schwartz, a “large column of about 45 tanks” can be seen in the Belgorod region of Russia travelling west toward Ukraine.
Mr Schwartz has geolocated the video, and said he had “high confidence” it placed the forces within a handful of kilometres from Ukraine.
Five Ukrainian ‘saboteurs’ killed
Russian military officials have claimed that five Ukrainian “saboteurs” have been killed while attempting to breach the border.
According to the officials, the “diversionary reconnaissance” group were intercepted and their vehicles destroyed in addition to the deaths.
However, Ukraine has strenuously denied the allegations, insisting no Ukrainian forces were positioned in the Rostov region where the alleged fatalities occurred.
Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba denied that allegation and a slew of other claims from Russian officials, while Moscow continues to deny it was planning to invade Ukraine, despite intelligence from the West suggesting otherwise.
Other nations fear they’ll be next: Payne
Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne has told 2GB fellow Eastern European, such as Poland and Lithuania, nations are growing increasingly “concerned” they could be next on Russia’s hit list.
“This is obviously a very very serious situation,” Ms Payne said on air.
“Countries in the region are very concerned, that was certainly the message they were sending.
“These are countries that have fought their way out of this kind of oppression in the past, they have done so with courage and with strength they have grown and developed.”
She said Australia was willing to assist other European nations in need.
“Australia has been very clear our commitment to their sovereignty and territorial integrity, particularly specifically the case of Ukraine right now … we will not be changing that position,” Ms Payne said.
“We will be continuing to request and suggest very very strongly … this is not inevitable, this does not have to happen, there are still choices to be made by Russia.”
Threat of sanctions
Us President Joe Biden has announced new trade and financial sanctions against those two breakaway regions in response to Mr Putin’s decree.
The White House said in a statement that the President would sign an executive order to “prohibit new investment, trade, and financing by US persons to, from, or in the so-called DNR and LNR regions of Ukraine”, adding it would “soon announce additional measures related to today’s blatant violation of Russia’s international commitments”.
Meanwhile, European Union leaders have also slammed the decree, hinting at repercussions to come.
“The recognition of the two separatist territories in Ukraine is a blatant violation of international law, the territorial integrity of Ukraine, and the Minsk agreements,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a tweet, while European Council President Charles Michel tweeted: “EU and its partners will react with unity, firmness and determination in solidarity.”