US will act 'decisively' as Putin orders troops into eastern Ukraine, Biden says

Vladimir Putin has ordered Russia's military to act as 'peacekeepers' in two breakaway regions of Ukraine

Presidents Biden and Putin. AFP
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President Joe Biden on Monday vowed that the US and its allies would act "swiftly and decisively" in the Ukraine crisis as Russian President Vladimir Putin authorised troops to be sent into two breakaway regions of eastern Ukraine, hours after recognising them as independent.

Mr Biden "strongly condemned" Mr Putin’s decision to recognise the independence of Luhansk and Donetsk, the White House said after a 35-minute call the US leader held with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Mr Biden "reiterated that the United States would respond swiftly and decisively, in lock-step with its allies and partners".

The men spoke as Mr Putin was delivering a lengthy national address in which he justified his decision to recognise the Donetsk and Luhansk separatist republics.

He then ordered Russia's military to act as "peacekeepers" in the two regions.

It was not immediately clear the size of the force that Mr Putin was sending, when they would cross the border into Ukraine and exactly what their mission would be.

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the Biden administration had "anticipated a move like this from Russia and are ready to respond immediately".

Mr Biden later issued an an executive order prohibiting any new investment, trade, and financing by US persons to, from, or in the breakaway regions of Ukraine.

Ms Psaki said the administration would also announce other measures related to Mr Putin's "blatant violation of Russia’s international commitments" and that the sanctions were separate from "the swift and severe measures" the US would impose if Moscow further invaded Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg reported that the US is moving its embassy out of Ukraine.

The embassy had previously relocated from Kiev to the western city of Lviv. The Biden administration has also told non-essential embassy staff and US citizens to leave Ukraine.

The US is temporarily moving all State Department personnel out of Ukraine to Poland for security reasons, a source told Bloomberg.

Spokespeople for the State Department and the National Security Council declined to comment. Russia denies it intends to invade.

The US and allies including France have requested an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council later on Monday, diplomats told AFP.

Mr Zelinskyy earlier tweeted that he had also spoken to President Emmanuel Macron of France and Germany's Chancellor Olaf Scholz "and convened the National Security and Defence Council".

Western leaders have pledged to impose sanctions on Russia for its recognition of a part of eastern Ukraine holding up to three million people, trying to redraw the former Soviet republic's borders for a second time since its 2014 annexation of Crimea.

Agencies contributed to this report.

Updated: February 22, 2022, 12:12 AM