Western nations and Japan on Tuesday punished Russia with new sanctions for ordering troops into separatist regions of eastern Ukraine and threatened to go further if Moscow launched an all-out invasion of its neighbour.

The United States, the European Union, Britain, Australia, Canada and Japan announced plans to target banks and elites while Germany halted a major gas pipeline project from Russia in one of the worst security crises in Europe in decades.

Bitter about Ukraine’s long-term goal to join NATO and claiming it as historic Russian land, Russian President Vladimir Putin has amassed more than 150,000 troops near Ukraine’s borders, according to U.S. estimates, and ordered soldiers into the breakaway Donetsk and Luhansk regions to “keep the peace”.

The United States dismisses that justification as “nonsense”.

“To put it simply Russia just announced that it is carving out a big chunk of Ukraine,” U.S. Presidnt Joe Biden said on Tuesday.

This is the beginning of a Russian invasion.”

Satellite imagery over the past 24 hours shows several new troop and equipment deployments in western Russia and more than 100 vehicles at a small airfield in southern Belarus, which borders Ukraine, according to U.S. firm Maxar.

The Ukrainian military said early on Wednesday one soldier had been killed and six wounded in 96 incidents of shelling by pro-Russian separatists in the east over the previous 24 hours. It said separatist forces used heavy artillery, mortars and Grad rocket systems.

Moscow is calling for security guarantees, including a promise that Ukraine will never join NATO, while the United States and its allies offer Putin confidence-building and arms control steps to defuse the stand-off.
Reuters

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