The United States continues to see preparations for a possible broader invasion that includes loading amphibious ships and equipment for airborne units.
Putin signed the decrees recognizing the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic in a ceremony broadcast on state television earlier on Monday.
A senior US administration official said Russian forces are continuing preparations for an invasion of Ukraine, but diplomacy will continue “until the tanks roll.”
“The Russian forces continued to approach the border,” the official said, noting that they see plans to invade “at any moment.”
The official acknowledged Putin’s order for what the Kremlin called “peacekeepers” to enter areas claimed by Moscow in eastern Ukraine, but said the United States would respond to Russian actions, not words.
“We will monitor and evaluate the measures already taken by Russia and respond accordingly,” the official said.
The official declined to provide additional information or confirm the entry of Russian forces into Ukraine, but said the United States was closely monitoring events on the ground. The official pointed out that the Russian forces operating in these areas is not a new phenomenon.
“This is the situation in that area” since 2014, the official said.
Biden’s executive order would also allow the United States to impose sanctions on anyone operating in those areas. The White House said it “will soon announce additional measures related to today’s flagrant violation of Russia’s international obligations.”
“To be clear: These actions are separate and will be in addition to the rapid and dangerous economic measures we are preparing in coordination with allies and partners in the event of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki wrote in a statement.
However, the sanctions announced by the White House targeting specific regions were a far cry from the devastating consequences for Russia that Biden and US officials have warned would be imposed in the event of Russia’s invasion, referring to the continuation of comprehensive measures should Moscow continue. Proceed with military action to invade Ukrainian territory.
The official said the United States would take additional measures to respond to Russia’s recognition of the breakaway territories on Tuesday.
“We will take further measures tomorrow to hold Russia accountable for this clear violation of international law and the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine,” the official said.
The United States and Europe condemn Putin’s actions
The US response came on the heels of a lengthy speech by Putin on Monday, in which he attacked both Ukraine and the West before signing decrees recognizing the two controversial breakaway regions. Putin’s announcement comes on the heels of various Russian allegations of provocations over the past several days, which the United States and Ukraine say are false operations used by Moscow to try to make a justification for war.
Western officials fear that Monday’s move is a prelude to a full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine. The United States and other NATO countries have warned that they are ready for tough sanctions if Moscow invades Ukraine, beyond measures announced by the White House on Monday.
NATO and European officials also condemned Putin’s comments. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the move “further undermines” Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
“I condemn Russia’s decision to extend recognition of the ‘Donetsk People’s Republic’ and the ‘Luhansk People’s Republic,'” he said. “This undermines the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, undermines efforts to resolve the conflict, and violates the Minsk Agreements, to which Russia is a party.”
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday that Putin’s recognition of breakaway regions was a “bad omen and a very bleak sign”. British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said on Twitter that the United Kingdom plans to announce new sanctions against Russia on Tuesday.
Biden talks with foreign leaders
Biden consulted with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on a call Monday afternoon, and then spoke with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Schulz.
While Putin held a national security meeting on Monday before his speech, Biden was consulting with senior US officials at the White House. Blinken, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley, and CIA Director Bill Burns arrived at the White House on Monday, a day off in the United States. Vice President Kamala Harris, who returned Sunday evening from the Munich Security Conference, was also at the White House.
Milley also spoke with his Ukrainian counterpart, Lieutenant General Valery Zalogny, shortly after Putin recognized the independent regions in eastern Ukraine on Monday, according to a spokesman for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The two spoke last week and were in regular contact as Russian forces gathered on Ukraine’s border and began to approach.
Overnight, US officials played down the chances of a France-proposed summit between Biden and Putin, suggesting that the prospects of a Russian invasion of Ukraine made such a meeting highly unlikely.
They said that no work has been done on the timing, format or place of holding such a summit.
Speaking on US morning television, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan warned that Russia may be preparing for a conflict more brutal than some initial estimates.
“We believe that any military operation of this scale and scope and scale of what we think the Russians are planning will be very violent. It will cost the lives of Ukrainians and Russians, civilians and military alike. But we also have intelligence that suggests there will be more brutality because this is not just going to be a war Conventional between two armies: It will be a war that Russia will wage on the Ukrainian people to oppress, crush and harm them,” Sullivan said during Monday’s appearance on NBC’s “Today Show.”
“All indications are that President Putin and the Russians are moving forward with a plan to carry out a major military invasion of Ukraine,” Sullivan said on ABC’s channel.
DJ Good, Kylie Atwood, Jennifer Hansler, Oren Lieberman, Sharon Braithwaite and CNN’s James Frater contributed to this report.