Russia-Ukraine recap: Conflict continues to intensify after Putin recognizes breakaway regions

Michael Crimmins, Investigative Reporter

There is no shortage of newsworthy topics here in the United States. At times it is easy to get lost in it all, but equally crucial things happen all over the world.

Currently, the big foreign affair is the Russian-Ukraine crisis. This issue of the Herald’s Global Recap column is devoted solely to the several developments that have occurred this week.

These developments are complex, and it is highly encouraged to follow the links and read referenced stories in full.

Here’s a look at some of the headlines from this past week about the Russian-Ukrainian crisis:

Russia recognizes eastern Ukraine breakaway regions as independent 

On Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin officially recognized the independence of two eastern Ukrainian territories and subsequently moved troops into them, according to NPR.

The territories of Luhansk and Donetsk, collectively called Donbas, led by pro-Russian separatists, have been in conflict with the Ukrainian government since 2014. More than 13,000 people have been killed with nearly 1.5 million being displaced, NPR reports. 

According to NPR, the Russian troops are there for, what Putin called, “peace keeping” missions.

Putin has signed friendship treaties with the leaders of the territories while the West condemned Russian action and imposed sanctions, according to a similar Reuters article.

Reuters reports that some residents of the Donbas expressed joy over Russia’s recognition.

“This is very important for me, I know that the blood I spilled with my comrades and our labors and efforts and the losses of civilians were not in vain all this time,” a former member of a pro-Russian separatist militia named Dmitry told Reuters.

While some are joyful, others are worried what this could mean for their future, according to Reuters.

“I don’t know what will happen now – everyone is at a loss and uncertain,” Irina, a woman of about 40, said. “If there are [Russian] troops, it means it’s not worth fighting because Russia is a great power, mighty, nuclear.”

According to Reuters, a convoy of around a dozen cars were seen driving through the Donetsk city center chanting pro-Russian sentiments shortly before separatists resumed their shelling of Ukrainian forces.

US, Europe places sanctions on Russia as crisis continues 

On Tuesday, U.S. President Joe Biden unveiled new sanctions on Russia as the country continues to threaten Ukraine, according to a CNN article.

The sanctions include targeting two Russian financial institutions and effectively “cutt[ing] off Russia’s government from Western finance,” according to CNN.

CNN reports that President Biden’s new sanctions on Russia are not the full scope of the planned sanctions and said he is willing to apply more  should the crisis continue.

“[Tuesday’s sanctions are] only the sharp edge of the pain we can inflict,” a senior US administration official said after Biden’s remarks. “This is the beginning of an invasion, and therefore this is the beginning of our response.”

President Biden has also announced new troops are in the Baltic area to strengthen NATO’s eastern flank, but Biden stressed they are not there to “fight Russia,” CNN reports.

These U.S. sanctions come as nearly two dozen European countries announced their own sanctions on Russia, according to the AP.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has also not used his toughest means of force as the nearly 200,000 Russian troops on three sides of Ukraine remain in place, according to the AP.

Russian lawmakers have granted Putin the power to use military means outside the country, AP reports.

Biden has made it clear that he believes Putin has violated international law by choosing to recognize parts of Ukraine as “independent,” CNN reports.

“Who in the Lord’s name does Putin think gives him the right to declare new so-called countries on territory that belonged to his neighbors?” Biden said. “This is a flagrant violation of international law and demands a firm response from the international community.”

According to CNN, Biden is still open to a diplomatic ending of the crisis.

“The United States and our allies and partners remain open to diplomacy, if it is serious,” the president said. “When all is said and done, we’re going to judge Russia by its actions, not its words.”

However, according to the AP, U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken canceled his trip to Geneva to meet with his Russian counterpart, saying it would not be productive.

According to the AP, Putin has laid out three conditions to end the crisis: The recognition of the Crimea Peninsula as part of Russia, that Ukraine revoke its bid for NATO membership and partial demilitarization in Ukraine. 

Biden said his administration is using every tool they can to limit the effect of the sanctions on the U.S. economy.

“As I said last week, defending freedom will have costs, for us as well and here at home,” Biden said. “We need to be honest about that. But as we do this, I’m going to take robust action to make sure the pain of our sanctions is targeted at the Russian economy, not ours.”

Germany halts gas pipeline as Russia enters eastern Ukraine

Germany announced on Tuesday that Nord Stream 2, a new major natural gas pipeline, would not be certified given the current circumstances, according to CNN.

The pipeline runs through the Baltic Sea into Lubmin, Germany, spanning a distance of 750 miles.

“With regard to the latest developments, we need to reassess the situation also with regard to Nord Stream 2,” Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in Berlin. “It sounds very technocratic but it is the necessary administrative step in order to stop certification of the pipeline.”

Nord Stream 2 was completed in September of 2021 but is lacking German certification to begin operation. It has the capacity to deliver over 50% of Germany’s gas consumption, CNN reports.

The decision to halt the pipeline comes soon after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered troops into eastern Ukraine, according to NPR. 

The Russian decision put Germany in a tough position as President Biden promised a halt on the pipeline if Russian aggression continued, CNN reports.

U.S. Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a Tweet that she welcomes the outcome and it was clearly expressed before Russia went into eastern Ukraine.

“@POTUS made clear that if Russia invaded Ukraine, we would act with Germany to ensure Nord Stream 2 does not move forward. We have been in close consultations with Germany overnight and welcome their announcement. We will be following up with our own measures today,” the Tweet reads.

The pipeline has been criticized by the U.S. and European countries as giving Russia too much influence in Europe, NPR states.

The Russian-Ukrainian conflict continues to develop.

Investigative reporter Michael Crimmins can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @michael_crimm.