Moscow: Putin Is Considering Recognizing Separatist-Held Regions

Moscow: Putin Is Considering Recognizing Separatist-Held Regions

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1 min agoPutin says he’s considering request to recognize separatist-held regions of Ukraine From CNN’s Sarah Dean and Anna Chernova in Moscow

Ukrainian Military Forces servicemen walk through trenches on the front line in Donetsk region, Ukraine, on February 21. (Anatolii Stepanov/AFP/Getty Images)Russian President Vladimir Putin said Monday he is considering a request from pro-Russian separatist leaders in eastern Ukraine’s breakaway regions to recognize them as independent.

“The purpose of today’s meeting is to listen to colleagues and to determine our further steps in this direction, including the appeal from the leaders of the Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic to Russia seeking recognition of their sovereignty and the resolution of the state Duma on the same subject,” Putin told his security council, in comments aired on television.More context: Even as Russian forces mass on Ukraine’s border, the spotlight last week swung back to the rumbling low-intensity war in eastern Ukraine and its possible role in setting the stage for a broader conflict.

The Ukrainians say shelling by the Russian-backed separatists is at its highest in nearly three years, and for their part the separatists allege the use of heavy weapons by Ukrainian armed forces against civilian areas. Ukraine said it recorded more than 100 truce violations in the east, after a day of heavy weapons fire that saw fears of a Russian invasion mount.

The leaders of the two breakaway pro-Russian territories — which call themselves the Luhansk and Donetsk People’s Republics — claimed the Ukrainians are planning a large military offensive in the area. On Friday they organized mass evacuations of civilians to Russia, while instructing men to remain and take up arms.

Ukrainian officials repeatedly deny any such plans. 

Read more about the separatist-held regions here.

CNN’s Tamara Qiblawi, Nathan Hodge and Ivana Kottasová contributed reporting to this post. 

31 min agoLatest UK intel shows “in some ways” Putin’s plan has “already begun,” prime minister’s spokesperson says From CNN’s Luke McGee, Niamh Kennedy and Alex Hardie in London  

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting in Moscow, on February 3. (Alexei Nikolsky/TASS/Getty Images)UK intelligence indicates that Russia intends to launch an invasion of Ukraine, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesperson said Monday, adding that “in some ways, Putin’s plan has in effect already begun.”

“We’re seeing elements of the Russian playbook that we would expect to see in certain situations starting to play out in real time,” Johnson’s spokesperson told a lobby briefing on Monday. Last week, Britain’s Defense Ministry warned that Russia “retains a significant military presence that can conduct an invasion without further warning,” posting on Twitter a map showing Putin’s “possible axis of invasion.”

The map showed Russia’s capability to carry out phase one ground movements towards the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, from two points along the Belarusian border, and one point from the Western Russia border.  

UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace is expected to provide an update on the Ukraine crisis in statement to parliament on Monday. 

37 min agoEU adopts emergency support package for UkraineFrom CNN’s Claudia Rebaza and Arnaud Siad

People board up a window at a school damaged in a shelling attack, in Donetsk region, on February 21. (Alexander Ryumin/TASS/Getty Images)The European Union will provide an emergency support package of 1.2 billion euros ($1.36 billion) in the form of loans to foster stability in Ukraine, the council said in a news release on Monday. 

“It intends to provide swift support in a situation of acute crisis and to strengthen Ukraine’s resilience,” the council added.The council “fast-tracked” and adopted the package 21 days after the European Commission presented its proposal, saying “the current geopolitical tensions are having a detrimental effect on Ukraine’s economic and financial stability.”

“Persistent security threats have already triggered a substantial outflow of capital. Ukraine is losing access to international capital markets due to the heightened geopolitical uncertainty and its impact on the economic situation,” it added.

“The EU has acted swiftly and decisively to help Ukraine. Within 21 days, we completed the necessary work, which means that €1.2 billion macro-financial assistance can now reach Ukraine,” French Minister of Economy and Finance Bruno Le Maire said about the package.

According to the news release, the financial assistance will have a duration of 12 months and will consist of two disbursements, subject to the satisfactory implementation of the ongoing International Monetary Fund program in Ukraine and entry into force of a Memorandum of Understanding on “specific structural policy measures,” which will be agreed between the European Commission and Ukraine.

1 hr 10 min agoUS seeing Russia continue to prepare for invasion, with one source saying there has been “no slow down”From CNN’s Barbara Starr and Jim Sciutto

The US continues to see Russia making moves in the field that are consistent with preparations to invade Ukraine, two US officials told CNN on Monday.

One US official familiar with the latest intelligence says military preps continue unabated, there has been “no slow down.”

Those “tactical indicators” that Russian forces in the field are doing, are what they would be doing “if they were told to invade,” another US official said. The US is now looking for the “larger actions” beyond field activity that would indicate upcoming kinetic activity on a wider scale, the official said.  

Other indicators, such as electronic jamming and widespread cyberattacks, have not yet been observed, according to multiple sources. The sources cautioned that orders can always be withdrawn or that it could be misinformation meant to confuse and mislead the US and allies.

On Sunday CNN reported that the US has intelligence indicating orders have been sent to Russian commanders to proceed with an attack on Ukraine, according to two US officials and another source familiar with the US intelligence.

The intelligence regarding the order to tactical commanders and intelligence operatives is one of several indicators the US is watching to assess if Russian preparations have entered their final stages for a potential invasion.

National security adviser Jake Sullivan said Monday that a Russian attack on Ukraine could begin “in the coming hours or days” and would be “extremely violent.” 

“We believe that any military operation of this size, scope and magnitude of what we believe the Russians are planning will be extremely violent. It will cost the lives of Ukrainians and Russians, civilians and military personnel alike. But we also have intelligence to suggest that there will be an even greater form of brutality because this will not simply be some conventional war between two armies: It will be a war waged by Russia on the Ukrainian people, to repress them, to crush them, to harm them,” Sullivan said during a Monday appearance on NBC’s “Today Show.” 1 hr 26 min agoForensic analysis of separatists’ video casts serious doubts on authenticity From CNN’s Gianluca Mezzofiore

It was a dramatic video, widely shared when it appeared last Friday by Telegram channels sympathetic to Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.

It supposedly showed a barrage of gunfire and shelling by Polish-speaking saboteurs trying to blow up a chlorine tank near the city of Horlivka a week ear

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