Putin: Russian Troops Will Take Action in Eastern Ukraine

Biden says US and allies 'will respond in a united and decisive way'
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 23, 2022 5:16 PM CST
Updated Feb 23, 2022 9:43 PM CST
Rebels Ask Russia for Military Assistance in Eastern Ukraine
A Ukrainian serviceman leaves a command post to start his shift at a frontline position outside Popasna, in the Luhansk region, eastern Ukraine, Sunday, Feb. 20, 2022.   (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

Update: Vladimir Putin announced early Thursday local time that a special military operation would take place in the separatist region of eastern Ukraine known as Donbas. The Russian president said his country has no plans to occupy Ukraine, per CNN. But he said his troops will take action and any bloodshed that takes place will be on Ukraine's hands if the country's own forces do not retreat. He also accused the US of crossing Russia's "red line" by expanding NATO, Bloomberg reports. US President Joe Biden called the move "an unprovoked and unjustified attack by Russian military forces," accusing Putin of having "chosen a premeditated war that will bring a catastrophic loss of life and human suffering. Russia alone is responsible for the death and destruction this attack will bring, and the United States and its Allies and partners will respond in a united and decisive way." Our original story from earlier Wednesday follows:

The Kremlin says rebel leaders in eastern Ukraine asked Russia for military assistance Wednesday to help fend off Ukrainian "aggression" while Ukraine declared a nationwide state of emergency amid growing fears of an all-out invasion by Russian troops. The announcement from Moscow immediately fueled fears that the rebel request amounted to a pretext for war—a tactic that the West has warned about for weeks, the AP reports. The request from the leaders of Donetsk and Luhansk , which Russian media said was dated Feb. 22, could clear the way for Russia to move large numbers of troops to the territories, reports the BBC.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the rebel chiefs wrote to Putin, pleading with him to intervene after Ukrainian shelling caused civilian deaths and crippled vital infrastructure. The separatists’ appeal comes after Putin sanctioned the deployment of troops to the rebel territories to help "maintain peace" and the parliament granted him permission to use military force outside the country. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the separatists' request for Russian help was an example of the sort of "false-flag" operation that the US and its allies have expected Moscow to use as a pretense for war.

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Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said the country requested an urgent meeting of the United Nations Security Council. He called the separatists' request "a further escalation of the security situation." The Russian government and media have repeatedly claimed, without evidence, that Ukraine is carrying out a "genocide" of Russian-speakers, reports the New York Times. Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said the Russian force of more than 150,000 troops arrayed along Ukraine’s borders is in an advanced state of readiness. "They are ready to go right now," Kirby said. (Kyiv has told its citizens to flee Russia.)

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