US President Joe Biden has declared Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has begun as an expert warns “Australia has something to worry about”.
“None of us will be fooled” by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s claims about Ukraine, the US President said. And he said more sanctions could be on the way if Mr Putin proceeds further.
Mr Biden said he was also moving additional US troops to the Baltic states on NATO’s eastern flank bordering Russia. He said it was the “beginning of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.”
The Kremlin said Russian troops have moved into the separatist Ukraine states on a peacekeeping mission but many have seen this as the beginning of the invasion. This was after Mr Putin recognised the rebel-backed states’ independence.
"Russia has now undeniably moved against Ukraine by declaring these independent states,” Mr Biden said.
Jon Finer, principal deputy national security adviser, told CNN: “We think this is, yes, the beginning of an invasion, Russia’s latest invasion into Ukraine”.
“An invasion is an invasion, and that is what is underway,” Mr Finer said.
Volodymyr Shalkivskyi, Ukrainian Embassy's head of mission in Canberra, told the ABC on Wednesday, Ukraine would like to avoid “full scale war”.
“We have clear signs of invasion, moving Russian troops and equipment into our territory, in eastern Ukraine. We prepared already for all possible scenarios,” he said.
Russian government approves military force
Members of Russia’s upper house, the Federation Council, voted unanimously to allow Mr Putin to use military force outside the country — effectively formalising a Russian military deployment to the rebel regions, where an eight-year conflict has killed nearly 14,000 people.
Mr Putin said the crisis could be resolved if Kyiv recognises Russia’s sovereignty over Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula that Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014, renounces its bid to join NATO and partially demilitarises.
The West has decried the annexation of Crimea as a violation of international law and has previously flatly rejected permanently barring Ukraine from NATO.
Asked whether he has sent any Russian troops into Ukraine and how far they could go, Mr Putin responded: “I haven’t said that the troops will go there right now.”
“It’s impossible to forecast a specific pattern of action –- it will depend on a concrete situation as it takes shape on the ground,” he said.
Mr Biden announced a number of sanctions in response. He said the sanctions in the initial tranche applied to VEB bank and Russia's military bank, referring to Promsvyazbank, which does defence deals. He said the sanctions against Russia's sovereign debt meant the Russian government would be cut off from Western financing.
"As Russia contemplates its next move, we have our next move prepared as well," Mr Biden said.
"Russia will pay an even steeper price if it continues its aggression, including additional sanctions."
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters the whole situation "is very dangerous".
"Well, what I can say is that Russia has well over 150,000 troops," he said.
"In addition to that, of course, there are air forces and naval forces also close to Ukraine.
"And these forces are partly inside Ukraine already, in Crimea and in Donbass, and partly close to Ukraine's borders, both in the east, but also in the south, and also in the north, partly in Russia, and partly in Belarus."
Mr Stoltenberg added these forces "are combat ready".
"But also all kinds of enablers: missiles, armoured vehicles, battle tanks, drones, systems for electronic warfare, air defence, Iskander missiles, which are actually dual capable missiles, and a wide range of different military capabilities," he said.
"So this is force which is not only strong, and well equipped, and have a lot of high-end capabilities, but it is also force which is now fully resourced with ammunition and fuel. And then, more and more of the troops have moved out of their camps and are now in a position where they can attack without any warning time."
'Australia has something to worry about'
Australian National University’s Russian political expert Dr Leonid Petrov told news.com.au Australia should be concerned about the latest developments.
Dr Petrov said the AUKUS agreement between Australia, the UK and the US was done with a view in preventing Russia’s expansion throughout the Asia-Pacific region. He said Russia was uneasy about the agreement.
The agreement will see Australia provided with nuclear-powered submarines.
“We should expect Russian naval efforts roaming the waters in the north and south Pacific,” he told news.com.au.
“Australia has something to worry about.”
with Reuters and The Associated Press
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