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Putin orders Russian military to ‘maintain peace’ in Ukraine separatist regions

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Russia’s President Vladimir Putin ordered on Monday military troops to “maintain” peace in two breakaway regions of Ukraine after he recognized them as independent. But it is not immediately clear whether the troops would enter the Ukraine.

The announcement comes hours after Putin signed decrees recognizing the independence of separatist regions, Donetsk and Lugansk, in eastern Ukraine.

“I believe it is necessary to take this long overdue decision. I immediately recognize the independence and sovereignty of the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Lugansk People’s Republic,” Putin said in a televised speech.

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The move further heightened international fears that Russia will invade Ukraine at any moment and provoked the US and the European Union to threaten immediate sanctions against Moscow.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned Russia's move as a “violation” of Ukraine’s sovereignty.

“The Secretary-General is greatly concerned by the decision by the Russian Federation related to the status of certain areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine,” his spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in a statement.

“The Secretary-General considers the decision of the Russian Federation to be a violation of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine and inconsistent with the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.”

The recognition of the separatist regions in Ukraine came as more than 150,000 Russian troops have surrounded Ukraine from three sides. The US has warned that Russia could try to create a pretext for invading Ukraine with false-flag attacks in the volatile rebel east which has recently seen several skirmishes.

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