On Monday, President Putin formally recognized the independence of the breakaway Donetsk People's Republic (DNR) and the Luhansk People's Republic (LNR) in eastern Ukraine and deployed the Russian military on a "peacekeeping" mission to secure the separatist-controlled territory. The conflict has entered a new phase as the status quo has been changed. Ukraine is on high alert for any further incursion by Russian troops.
- In a long and fiery televised speech, President Putin outlined his post-Cold War grievances with the West and Ukraine, rejected the sovereignty of Ukraine, and unilaterally recognized the independence of the separatist regions of Eastern Ukraine. The speech was followed by the deployment of uniformed Russian troops into the Donbas, formalizing Russia's occupation and effectively ending the Minsk Accords—the 2015 peace framework aimed at dialing down the conflict in Eastern Ukraine.
- In response to Russia’s recognition and de facto occupation of the breakaway republics:
- Germany halted the process of certifying the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline (between Russia and Germany, bypassing Ukraine).
- The EU proposed a ban on purchases of Russian bonds, sanctions on Russian parliamentarians, and an asset freeze for three Russian banks.
- The UK sanctioned five Russian banks and three oligarchs (already on U.S. sanctions lists).
- The U.S. banned its citizens from conducting any business in and with the breakaway regions. More sanctions are expected later today.
- 30,000 Russian troops remain in Belarus after the joint training exercise set to conclude on 20 February was "extended" due to the situation in Eastern Ukraine.
- Russia published the details of its nuclear exercises that it held on 19 February in what can be seen as a warning to the West and international community not to intervene should Russia further escalate the conflict.
- Commercial airlines, including Air France, Lufthansa, Swiss, and AirBaltic have begun to suspend flight routes to Ukraine. Flights are becoming increasingly difficult to book.
- U.S. Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, is set to meet his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on Thursday.
- Putin's speech laid out a justification for war to the Russian people. The subtext of the address, taken along with the various false-flag incidents over the past 5 days, sets the stage for some sort of military incursion into Ukrainian-held territory.
- By now annexing both Crimea (in 2014) and now parts of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts (in practice), Putin has effectively accomplished his short-term goal of derailing Ukraine's NATO aspirations and created leverage for more negotiations. The pro-Russian separatists in the breakaway regions of Donetsk and Luhansk still lay claim to the Ukrainian-controlled parts of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts, leaving the door open to Russia claiming the territory by force.
- So far, Russia has employed a cautious tactic of escalating military, pausing for diplomacy, before moving ahead again. President Putin can now either attack Ukraine openly or use the threat of war to try to extract concessions from both the West and Ukraine in the hopes of re-writing the post-Cold War European security architecture and ensuring that Moscow has a permanent say in Ukrainian politics.
- Pro-Russian forces have increased the frequency and severity of strikes against Ukrainian forces along the frontlines, any strong retaliation by Kyiv can be used to justify a Russian invasion.
- Global Guardian recommends against non-essential travel to Ukraine.
- Expats should consider leaving Ukraine while commercial flights remain available.
- Those who remain in-country should prepare emergency supplies.
- Secure your assets and prepare your emergency evacuation plan.
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