Ukraine envoy to UN says borders 'will remain unchangeable'

US, UK, EU set to impose sanctions after Putin orders troops into eastern Ukraine

Washington said to have urged Ukraine’s Zelensky to move to west of country for safety; US envoy to UN: Putin’s ‘outrageous, false claims’ are creating pretext for war

Protesters hold placards demanding sanctions during a rally outside the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affair in Kyiv on February 21, 2022 (Sergei SUPINSKY / AFP)
Protesters hold placards demanding sanctions during a rally outside the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affair in Kyiv on February 21, 2022 (Sergei SUPINSKY / AFP)

The United States, Britain and the European Union are expected to impose sanctions on Russia on Tuesday after President Vladimir Putin ordered troops into two Moscow-backed rebel regions of Ukraine.

Moscow’s gambit triggered international condemnation, with a broader package of economic punishment to come in the event of further incursion into Ukraine’s territory.

The White House issued an executive order to prohibit US investment and trade in the separatist regions on Monday, and additional measures — likely sanctions — were to be announced Tuesday. Those sanctions are independent of what Washington has prepared in the event of a Russian invasion, according to a senior administration official who briefed reporters on the condition of anonymity.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called Putin’s move “a flagrant violation of the sovereignty and integrity of the Ukraine.”

UK Foreign Minister Liz Truss promised new sanctions on Russia “in response to their breach of international law and attack on Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Truss said Britain and the EU “will coordinate to deliver swift sanctions against Putin’s regime and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Ukraine.”

A man walks in the city of Avdiivka, eastern Ukraine, on February 21, 2022 (Aris Messinis / AFP)

The British government was set to meet on the matter on Tuesday morning, with an announcement to follow shortly afterwards. London is a key financial market for Moscow and plays a crucial role in the Russian economy.

EU chiefs Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel posted identical statements vowing the bloc “will react with sanctions against those involved in this illegal act.”

The UN Security Council held an emergency meeting, where US ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield described as “nonsense” Putin’s reference to the troops as “peacekeepers.”

“We know what they really are,” she said, adding that Putin’s speech amounted to a “series of outrageous, false claims” that were aimed at “creating a pretext for war.”

Thomas-Greenfield warned that “the consequences of Russia’s actions will be dire — across Ukraine, across Europe, and across the globe.”

Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the United Nations (UN) Sergiy Kyslytsya (L) fist bumps US ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield (R) after he speaking during an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council on the Ukraine crisis, in New York, February 21, 2022 (TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP)

Ukraine’s envoy to the UN condemned Russia’s actions as “illegal and illegitimate,” CNN reported.

“Today the entire membership of the United Nations is under attack,” said Sergiy Kyslytsya.

Despite Putin’s actions, he said, “the internationally recognized borders of Ukraine have been and will remain unchangeable regardless of any statements and actions by the Russian Federation.”

Russia’s Ambassador to the UN Vasily Nebenzya told the meeting that Moscow was still open to a diplomatic solution, while China called for restraint from all sides and for a diplomatic solution to the crisis.

A tank moves along a field during joint exercises of the armed forces of Russia and Belarus at a firing range near a town of Osipovichi outside Minsk on February 17, 2022. (Maxim GUCHEK / BELTA / AFP)

Meanwhile, the US administration has urged Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to move to Lviv in Ukraine’s far west, for his safety, an unnamed American official told ABC News.

The United States late Monday said personnel in Lviv would spend the night in Poland amid invasion fears, but return to Ukraine to continue their diplomatic work and emergency consular services.

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba is set to meet on Tuesday in Washington with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the State Department said.

After weeks of massing troops around Ukraine, Putin on Monday recognized the independence of the former Soviet state’s rebel-held Donetsk and Lugansk regions — paving the way for the deployment of an invasion force.

In an often-angry 65-minute televised national address from his office, Putin railed against Ukraine as a failed state and “puppet” of the West.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, chairs a Security Council meeting in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Monday, Feb. 21, 2022. (Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

In two official decrees, the Russian president instructed his defense ministry to assume “the function of peacekeeping” in the separatist-held regions.

Putin’s announcement came after weeks of tensions between Moscow and the West over Ukraine.

Russia massed more than 150,000 troops on the borders of Ukraine, prompting warnings from the West that Russia would invade — claims Moscow repeatedly denied.

Tensions then spiked this week after an outbreak of heavy shellfire on Ukraine’s eastern frontline with the separatists and a series of reported incidents on the border with Russia.

Ukrainian officials said two soldiers and a civilian died in more shelling of frontline villages Monday.

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