EU leaders vow sanctions over Putin's recognition of breakaway Ukraine regions

Leaders from the European Union and the United Kingdom vowed Monday to impose sanctions over Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to recognize two separatist regions in eastern Ukraine as independent.

In a letter statementsEuropean Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said they “condemn in the strongest possible terms the decision by the Russian President to proceed with the recognition of the non-government controlled areas of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts of Ukraine as independent entities.”

“This step is a blatant violation of international law as well as of the Minsk agreements,” the two leaders said, referring to peace accords agreed in 2014 and 2015. “The Union will react with sanctions against those involved in this illegal act.”

They did not provide any details of the sanctions to be imposed, nor the precise targets of the measures.

UK Trade Secretary Liz Truss said separately on Twitter that her country would coordinate with the EU “to deliver swift sanctions against Putin’s regime and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Ukraine,” after speaking with top EU diplomat Josep Borrell. Truss had indicated in a prior tweet that the UK would give more details on Tuesday.

No. 10 Downing Street said in a statement that UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson will on Tuesday morning lead an emergency COBR committee meeting “to discuss the latest developments in Ukraine and to coordinate the UK response including agreeing a significant package of sanctions to be introduced immediately.”

In Washington, the US also announced its own sanctions. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the US measures would “prohibit new investment, trade, and financing by US persons to, from, or in the so-called DNR and LNR regions of Ukraine,” referencing the breakaway regions.

“We will also soon announce additional measures related to today’s blatant violation of Russia’s international commitments,” she added.

The moves came following Putin’s televised address to the Russian nation Monday evening. In his speech, the Russian president said he would recognize the two breakaway territories as independent, in a significant escalation of the crisis that western leaders have warned is intended to prepare the ground for a Russian invasion of its western neighbor.

“The Union reiterates its unwavering support to Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders,” Michel and von der Leyen said.

Western leaders have long vowed to impose severe sanctions on Moscow should it decide to invade Ukraine. But Putin’s decision on Monday is likely to only trigger a portion of the economic penalities the EU, US, Britain and others have been preparing in case of all-out war.

Psaki stressed that point in her statement, saying the US measures are only the start of a raft of punishments the US has lined up should Putin go further.

“To be clear: these measures are separate from and would be in addition to the swift and severe economic measures we have been preparing in coordination with Allies and partners should Russia further invade Ukraine,” she said.

This article was updated after the UK also announced intentions to impose sanctions.

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