After Russian President Vladimir Putin sent his soldiers into separatist regions of eastern Ukraine, world leaders hurried to denounce him — and telegraph impending punishment — on Tuesday.
While Russia’s army deployments remained unclear, officials in Asia and elsewhere expressed strong support for Ukraine’s sovereignty, as well as concerns about the impact of a European war on global and local economy, as well as the safety of foreign nationals stranded in Ukraine.
“The sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine must be maintained,” stated South Korean President Moon Jae-in. “A military conflict against the interests of the international community… would have massive consequences in not only Europe’s politics and economics, but the whole world’s as well.”
A confrontation in Ukraine may wreak havoc on the country’s economy, as well as Europe’s, which is largely reliant on Russian energy. Asian countries, on the other hand, are concerned.
If the Ukraine conflict deepens and US-backed countries impose harsh economic penalties on Russia, Moon has directed his officials to prepare for the economic impact in South Korea.
Choi Young-sam, a spokeswoman for South Korea’s Foreign Ministry, said officials were attempting to convince 63 of the country’s nationals still in Ukraine to leave.
The chances of a big confrontation being avoided are diminishing. Putin’s decree came only hours after he recognized two separatist territories in Ukraine, establishing Russian military backing and enraging Western leaders who saw it as a violation of international law.
Putin blamed NATO for the present situation, describing the US-led alliance as a danger to Russia’s existence.
Some countries have made it clear that they are prepared to seek sanctions.
Fumio Kishida, Japan’s prime minister, slammed Russia for infringing on Ukraine’s territorial integrity, saying his country will consider “serious steps,” including penalties, with the international community.
“We voice our severe criticism” of Putin’s “activities,” Kishida told reporters on Tuesday. “Japan is keeping a close eye on the situation.”
Japan and Russia have a separate territorial dispute over four Russian-controlled northern islands that Japan seized at the conclusion of WWII. The deadlock has stopped the two parties from negotiating a peace deal.
The international criticism came as clashes erupted in Ukraine’s eastern regions, which Western nations fear Russia would exploit as a pretext for an attack on the Europe-facing democracy that has withstood Moscow’s attempts to entice it back into its circle.
Putin’s recognition of Ukrainian rebel territories has no legal foundation, according to New Zealand Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta.
“We are afraid that President Putin is using this as a pretext for an invasion, which would be a blatant act of aggression.” In a statement, Mahuta added, “We once again ask for immediate diplomatic efforts to achieve a peaceful conclusion.”
Russia should “unconditionally withdraw” from Ukrainian land and cease threatening its neighbors, according to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Russia’s actions, according to Morrison, are “unacceptable; they are unjustified and unjustifiable.”
“It’s critical that like-minded nations who condemn this type of activity remain together, and I can guarantee you that the minute other countries impose tough and punitive penalties on Russia, we’ll be right behind them and moving at the same pace,” he added.
The possibility of further sanctions highlights the West’s difficulty in averting a military war that has been depicted as unavoidable for some time.
Turkey, a NATO member with significant ties to both Ukraine and Russia, has denounced Russia’s decision to recognize the independence of eastern Ukraine’s territories.
“We find this decision by Russia reprehensible and condemn it,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry stated in a statement issued Tuesday.
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken spoke with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba over the phone to reaffirm the United States’ support for Ukraine.
Additional actions, most likely sanctions, were to be revealed Tuesday after the White House signed an executive order restricting investment and commerce in the separatist areas. According to a senior administration source who briefed reporters on the condition of anonymity, those measures are separate from what Washington has planned in the case of a Russian invasion.
Meanwhile, Ukraine, the United States, and six other nations summoned an emergency Security Council meeting on Monday night at the United Nations.
The United States and its Western allies, according to Russia’s UN envoy, are encouraging Ukraine to engage in “armed provocation.”
Over the weekend, Vassily Nebenzia said that Ukraine increased shelling in residential areas of separatist territories, as well as in certain Russian cities and villages along the border.
Ukraine’s UN envoy urged that Russia revoke its recognition of the separatist areas’ independence, withdraw its “occupation forces” dispatched by Putin, and resume talks.
Sergiy Kyslytsya slammed Putin’s decision to recognize the Donetsk and Luhansk regions as “illegal and illegitimate.”
China, a long-time Russian friend, issued a cautious statement, urging patience and a diplomatic solution to the conflict.
The US has warned that Moscow has already chosen to invade, with an estimated 150,000 Russian troops stationed on three flanks of Ukraine. Nonetheless, in a last-ditch effort to prevent conflict, President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin provisionally agreed to meet, mediated by French President Emmanuel Macron.
The summit will be canceled if Russia intervenes.
Ukraine and the West have accused Russia of arming and training rebels, but Moscow has denied this, claiming that Russians fighting in Ukraine were volunteers.