Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered troops into two separatist regions in eastern Ukraine, after recognizing them as independent states, international media reported.
As seen in the video footage, viral on social media now, Russian military vehicles move towards the Ukrainian border.
As per the BBC report quoting Russian officials, the troops would be “peacekeeping” in the breakaway regions, which it has backed since 2014.
But the US said calling them peacekeepers was “nonsense”. It accused Russia of creating a pretext for war. However, Ukraine’s president has said that his country was “not afraid of anything or anyone”.
In a late-night televised address to the nation, President Volodymyr Zelensky called for “clear and effective actions of support” from Ukraine’s international allies.
“It is very important to see now who our real friend and partner is, and who will continue to scare the Russian Federation with words only,” he added.
Several countries, including the UK, are expected to introduce sanctions against Russia in response to the move.
Fears over an invasion have been rising in recent months, as Russia has massed some 150,000 troops along Ukraine’s borders, according to US estimates.
At an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council, US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield dismissed Russia’s claims that troops would be taking on a “peacekeeping” role, saying: “We know what they really are.”
Recognising Luhansk and Donetsk as independent was part of Russia’s bid to create a reason to invade Ukraine, BBC quoted her as saying.
Meanwhile, western powers have rallied behind Ukraine, promising harsh sanctions against Russia if it invades – though it is not yet clear how effective this move could be, the report said.
The US swiftly condemned Putin’s move, and President Joe Biden signed an executive order that prohibits new investment, trade and financing by Americans in the breakaway regions.
The White House said the measures were separate to wider Western sanctions which are ready to go “should Russia further invade Ukraine”.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Russia had violated Ukrainian sovereignty and “completely torn up” international law. He said Putin appeared “bent on a full-scale invasion”, and promised a “barrage of sanctions”.
The European Union pledged to “react with unity, firmness and with determination in solidarity with Ukraine”, BBC reported.
Similarly, Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison rejected the suggestion that Russian troops would have a peacekeeping brief, telling reporters: “It’s unacceptable, it’s unprovoked, it’s unwarranted… some suggestion that they are peacekeeping is nonsense.”
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg also condemned Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recognition of rebel-held areas, saying it violated international agreements Moscow had signed.
“I condemn Russia’s decision to extend recognition to the self-proclaimed ‘Donetsk People’s Republic’ and ‘Luhansk People’s Republic’,” Stoltenberg said in a statement.