Russia sharply escalated its military campaign against Ukraine on Monday night, recognizing two pro-Russian breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine before ordering troops into the territories.
Moscow has long maintained that it has no soldiers on the ground in eastern Ukraine.
However NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said Tuesday that Russia had troops inside the regions – known as the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and the Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) – since they were self-declared in 2014.
Stoltenberg slammed the troop movement as a “further invasion of a country that has already been invaded.”
Putin has not yet set a timeline for troops to move into the separatist regions, but in a speech Tuesday afternoon, Biden described events now underway in Ukraine as “the beginning of a Russian invasion.”
“This is a flagrant violation of international law and demands a firm response from the international community,” Biden said, as he unveiled a range of new sanctions.
In a national address on Tuesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he was still pursuing diplomacy as a way out of the crisis. Reservists would be called up for military training, he said, but there would be no general mobilization of armed forces.
“We desire peace and calm, but if we are quiet today then tomorrow we will disappear,” Zelensky said.
The Ukrainian President also referred to Putin’s announcement that the Minsk Agreements – designed to end the fighting in eastern Ukraine – no longer applied, saying that Ukraine remained committed to seeking its sovereignty and integrity.
“Ukraine has never had traditions of its own statehood,” he said, seemingly calling into question the country’s right to exist as an independent nation, and referring to its eastern region as “ancient Russian lands.”
On Tuesday, the EU sanctioned 351 Russian lawmakers who voted to recognize the breakaway regions and the UK announced sanctions against five Russian banks and three Russian oligarchs.
The Baltic states – long fearful of Russian encirclement – watched Monday’s events with alarm.
“Putin just put (Franz) Kafka & (George) Orwell to shame: No limits to dictator’s imagination, no lows too low, no lies too blatant, no red lines too red to cross,” the Prime Minister of Lithuania, Ingrida Šimonytė, wrote on Twitter.
“What we witnessed tonight might seem surreal for democratic world. But the way we respond will define us for generations to come,” she said.
Amid the clamor of countries condemning Russia’s planned incursion, some nations steered clear of criticizing Moscow.
During an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council Monday evening, India called for “restraint on all sides,” stopping short of criticizing Russia.
“However, Kenya rejects such a yearning from being pursued by force. We must complete our recovery from the embers of dead empires in a way that does not plunge us back into new forms of dominion and oppression,” he said, adding that Kenya rejected “expansion on any basis, including racial, ethnic, religious or cultural factors.”
For almost eight years, the breakaway regions of Donetsk and Luhansk have seen a low-intensity conflict between Russian-backed separatists and Ukrainian forces, which has left more than 14,000 people dead.
Kyiv and the West maintain that the region is part of the Ukrainian territory, although the Ukrainian government asserts the two regions have been, in effect, Russian-occupied since 2014, when the conflict in eastern Ukraine began.
Correction: This story has been updated to correct the date Nord Stream 2 was completed.
CNN’s Anna Chernova, Vasco Cotovio, Joseph Ataman, Pierre Bairin, Ivana Kottasová, and Helen Regan contributed to this report.
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