As Russia recognised separatist republics in the East of Ukraine, and prepares to move military forces, we are analysing four sets of actors: Russia, Ukraine, the West and Central Europe.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has announced that he is recognising the independence of two breakaway regions of Ukraine. Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) are in the East of the country and could allow him to move troops into Ukraine. The upper house of Russia's parliament has voted unanimously in favour of giving President Putin authority to deploy armed forces abroad. The move formally allows the Russian President to send troops into the Donbas region of Ukraine.
Russia’s move essentially terminates the end of the Minsk agreement, a fact acknowledged by President Putin in his national address.
President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed the nation amid Russia’s call to deploy its troops to the occupied territories of Donbas for “peacekeeping” operations. President Zelensky stated that Ukraine requested an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council and added that the OSCE’s monitoring mission in Ukraine must continue its work to prevent provocations and further escalation. Furthermore, the Ukrainian President called for an urgent meeting of the Normandy Format countries – Germany, France, Ukraine, and Russia. “It is very important now to see who is our real friend and partner, and who will continue ‘scaring’ the Russian Federation with words,” Zelensky said. He added that the country’s borders are well-protected and that Ukraine reserves the right to defend itself from further Russian aggression.
Western countries are imposing sanctions on Russia after it ordered troops to be sent to Eastern Ukraine. The UK hit five banks and three wealthy individuals with sanctions in response. Germany has suspend the certification process of Nord Stream 2 putting the major gas pipeline project from Russia on hold.
Meanwhile, the EU has published a proposed list of targeted sanctions in response to President Putin’s move. Additional measures are prepared if President Putin takes more military steps in Ukraine. For now sanctions are to target:
- Anyone involved in the DPR and LPR decision - diplomats say that includes 351 members of Russia's parliament who backed recognition along with 11 people who proposed it.
- Banks that are financing Russia's military and peripheralr operations in those territories.
- The ability of the Russian state and government to access the EU’s capital and financial markets and services, as well as the the financing of escalatory and aggressive policies.
- Trade from the two breakaway regions to and from the EU, to ensure that those responsible clearly feel the economic consequences of their illegal and aggressive actions.
All 27 EU member states must still agree to these sanctions. Splits between EU countries over foreign policy are common. Brussels is anxious, along with rest of West, to put forward a united front but behind closed doors, diplomats speak about concerns over Hungary.
Hungary will deploy troops along its 137km border with Ukraine amid fears of an influx of refugees if the crisis with Russia escalates, Defence Minister Tibor Benko has said. Countries in Eastern Europe are making preparations for people fleeing Ukraine. Hungary's armed forces will carry out humanitarian tasks as well as close the Ukraine border with Hungary "to ensure that no armed groups can enter the territory", Defence Minister Tibor Benko said.
"Hungary's security is the most important, we are reinforcing the Ukraine-Hungary border," the defence ministry said in a statement. Hungary's nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban is known for his hard stance on migration.In contrast, neighbour to both, Romania says it could take in half a million refugees if the crisis in Ukraine worsens.
In Poland, which is home of largest Ukrainian diaspora, the government started to prepare for the potential influx of refugees over the last three weeks. Yesterday the government raised the level of cyber alert in the anticipation of mass attacks on critical infrastructure.