Kyiv, Ukraine — As the U.S. and other nations announced further sanctions against Russia in a bid to dissuade President Vladimir Putin from launching a full scale invasion of Ukraine, the situation on the ground was getting tenser by the minute.
With violence escalating in the country’s east, Ukraine’s government called up military reservists and on Wednesday, the National Security Council met in Kyiv and asked lawmakers to approve a national state of emergency, which would give authorities more powers to “strengthen security of public places and locations that are critical for the public,” Oleksiy Danilov, Ukraine’s national security chief, said.
Danilov said the state of emergency would be imposed in all regions apart from Donetsk and Luhansk, where Ukrainian forces have already been at war with Russian-backed separatists for almost eight years. He said it would last at least 30 days. The emergency declaration must be approved by Ukraine’s parliament, but a vote was expected later Wednesday.
“Ukraine is a peaceful nation,” Ukrainian president Volodymir Zelensky said Wednesday. “We want calm, but if we keep silent now, we will be extinct tomorrow.”
Russia’s parliament gave the Kremlin formal permission on Tuesday to send troops into foreign territory. That could mean the territory of the separatist “republics” in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas area, which Putin unilaterally recognized as sovereign and independent earlier this week — or it could mean permission for a wider invasion of Ukraine.
Russia ominously promised on Wednesday to deliver a “strong” response to the latest sanctions from the West, with the Foreign Ministry saying it would not necessarily be “symmetric,” but that it would be “sensitive for Washington.”
President Biden said Tuesday that Russia had already begun an invasion of Ukraine, and the White House said a meeting between Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, which had been expected on Thursday, would no longer happen.
That discussion was intended to lay the groundwork for a summit between Putin and Mr. Biden, but that also was off the cards.
With the diplomatic efforts seemingly up in flames, new satellite photos appeared to show the deployment of more than 100 military vehicles and dozens of tents for troops within about 30 miles of the Ukrainian border in Belarus. Russian forces were also seen advancing toward the battlefields of the separatist Donetsk and Luhansk regions in Donbas.
“I have a bad feeling,” Lukansk resident Tatiana said. “I feel the burden in my soul. It’s very difficult.”
“You wake up and you feel all this pressure, even though people are staying positive,” Kyiv resident Valeria told CBS News. “It’s like this tension that’s growing inside. It’s kind of hard.”
Ukrainian political analyst Taras Berezovets told CBS News that Putin can no longer hide behind the claim that it is Ukrainian rebels doing the fighting against Ukraine’s military.
“There are now no more ‘Russian proxies,’ no more ‘Russian-backed separatists.’ It’s only Russia,” he said. “Russia is fully responsible for whatever happens now in Donetsk and Luhansk. Completely.”