Russia and Ukraine are both recalling their citizens as tensions between the countries intensify.
Russia has withdrawn diplomatic workers from its embassy in Kyiv while Ukraine has urged its citizens to leave Russia.
The actions come as Russian President Vladimir Putin received approval from Russia’s parliament Wednesday to use military force outside his country. Western nations have answered that move with sanctions on Russian leaders and banks.
The U.S. and its European allies accused Russia on Tuesday of crossing a red line after entering into separatist areas in eastern Ukraine. On Tuesday, U.S. President Joe Biden, in a televised message, called the moves “the beginning of a Russian invasion.”
Russia also withdrew diplomatic officials from Ukraine, state news agency Tass reported. By Wednesday, the Russian flag was no longer flying over the embassy in Kyiv. Police had surrounded the building.
After weeks of demonstrating calm, Ukrainian officials showed signs of increased concern on Wednesday. The Foreign Ministry advised against travel to Russia. It also said Ukrainian citizens in Russia should leave immediately. The head of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council also called for a nationwide state of emergency.
There have been a number of signs of rising tensions. They include the withdrawal of Ukraine’s ambassador to Russia. Ukrainian officials are also considering breaking diplomatic ties with Russia.
Several nations have blocked rich Russian business leaders, known as oligarchs, and banks from international financial markets. Germany halted the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline from Russia. The United States sent more troops to NATO alliance partners near Russia. And the top U.S. diplomat canceled a meeting with Russia’s foreign minister.
The threat of war has already severely damaged Ukraine’s economy. There are also reports of death and destruction in eastern Ukraine while energy shortages are being felt in Europe.
Leaders warned the situation could become more dangerous. Russia has 150,000 troops positioned on three sides of Ukraine. U.S. President Joe Biden warned that more sanctions could be placed on Russia.
Germany’s Foreign Minister on Wednesday called the latest European Union sanctions “a first step.” She said additional measures could follow. However, the United States and its European allies have said they do not want to oppose Russia with military force.
Russian ambassador in the U.S. Anatoly Antonov said that “sanctions cannot solve a thing” in a statement on Facebook. “It is hard to imagine that there is a person in Washington who expects Russia to revise its foreign policy under a threat of restrictions.”
An eight-year conflict between Russian-backed separatists and Ukrainian forces in the country’s east has killed nearly 14,000 people. Violence there is increasing. One Ukrainian soldier was killed and six more were injured after firing by the separatists, the Ukrainian military said. Separatist officials reported several explosions in territory they control and three civilian deaths.
After weeks of rising tensions, Putin took a series of steps this week that greatly intensified the conflict. First, he recognized the independence of Ukraine’s separatist areas of Donetsk and Luhansk. Then, he said that recognition extends even to the large parts of the territories now held by Ukrainian forces. Finally, he received permission from Russia’s parliament to use military force outside the country.
Putin has said there were only three ways out of the crisis. He called on Ukraine to recognize Russia’s sovereignty over Crimea. Russia seized the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in 2014. He also called on Ukraine to give up its attempt to join the Western military alliance NATO and to reduce its military forces.
The first two demands had been rejected by Ukraine and Western nations.
I’m Dan Novak.
Dan Novak adapted this for VOA Learning English from reporting by The Associated Press.
Words in This Story
sanctions – n.(pl.) actions taken to force a country to obey international law by limiting or stopping trade or cutting economic aid
red line –n. a line that marks the limit of what is safe
separatist — n. a member of a group of people who want to form a new country that is separate from the one they are in now
revise –v. to make changes to something especially to correct or improve something
oligarch — n. a person who belongs to a small group of people who govern or control a country or business
sovereignty –n. a country’s independent authority and right to govern itself