Russian troops enter strategic Black Sea port city of Kherson, mayor says
Russian troops are in the Ukrainian city of Kherson and forced their way into the council building, the mayor said after a day of conflicting claims over whether Moscow had make the first major gain of a city in its invasion that began eight days ago.
MOSCOW/DONETSK, Feb 22 (Reuters) - Russia faced the prospect of harsh new Western sanctions on Tuesday after President Vladimir Putin recognised two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine and ordered the deployment of troops there, deepening Western fears of a major war in Europe.
Ukraine said two soldiers had been killed and 12 wounded in shelling by pro-Russian separatists in the east in the past 24 hours, and reported new hostilities on Tuesday morning.
A Reuters journalist saw tanks and other military hardware moving through the separatist-controlled city of Donetsk overnight, but no insignia were visible on the vehicles.
Western leaders are trying to work out what Putin will do next, and whether Russia plans a full-scale invasion of Ukraine after massing troops near the borders of its ex-Soviet neighbour and demanding a redrawing of security arrangements in Europe.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said his country may break off diplomatic relations with Moscow. read more
Russia's parliament was expected to ratify treaties with the two separatist regions on Tuesday, and rising fears of war pushed oil prices to a seven-year high on Tuesday, while safe-haven currencies including the yen rallied and stocks around the world tumbled. read more
Putin's announcement on Monday, and his signing of a decree on the deployment of Russian troops to "keep peace" in the two breakaway regions, drew international condemnation.
U.S. President Joe Biden signed an executive order to halt U.S. business activity in the breakaway regions and European Union officials met to discuss sanctions. The EU's top diplomat promised the first punitive measures on Tuesday. read more
"We've got to ensure that, whatever happens, Russia will feel the pain ... to make sure Russia has absolutely no incentive to go further," said Ireland's Europe minister, Thomas Byrne.
Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said the description of the Russian troops as peacekeepers was "nonsense".
"We can, will and must stand united in our calls for Russia to withdraw its forces, return to the diplomatic table and work toward peace," she told reporters after an emergency meeting of the White House Security Council late on Monday
A senior U.S. official said the deployment of Russian troops to the breakaway regions did not merit the harshest sanctions the United States and its allies have prepared in the event of a full-scale invasion, as Russia already had troops there.