War fears grow as Putin orders troops to eastern Ukraine

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A long-feared Russian invasion of Ukraine appeared to be imminent Monday, if not already underway, with Russian President Vladimir Putin ordering forces into separatist regions of eastern Ukraine, reported Associated Press.

A Vaguely worded decree signed by Putin did not say if troops were on the move, and it cast the order as an effort to “maintain peace.” But it appeared to dash the slim remaining hopes of averting a major conflict in Europe that could cause massive casualties, energy shortages on the continent and economic chaos around the globe.

Putin’s directive came hours after he recognized the separatist regions in a rambling, fact-bending discourse on European history. The move paved the way to provide them military support, antagonizing Western leaders who regard it as a breach of world order, and set off a frenzied scramble by the U.S. and others to respond.

Underscoring the urgency, the U.N. Security Council held a rare nighttime emergency meeting on Monday at the request of Ukraine, the U.S. and other countries. Undersecretary-General Rosemary DiCarlo opened the session with a warning that “the risk of major conflict is real and needs to be prevented at all costs.”

Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, sought to project calm, telling the country: “We are not afraid of anyone or anything. We don’t owe anyone anything. And we won’t give anything to anyone.”

The White House issued an executive order to prohibit U.S. investment and trade in the separatist regions, and additional measures — likely sanctions — were to be announced Tuesday. Those sanctions are independent of what Washington has prepared in the event of a Russian invasion, according to a senior administration official who briefed reporters on the condition of anonymity.

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