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Putin orders troops into rebel-held regions of Ukraine

Vladimir Putin has ordered troops into two rebel-held regions in eastern Ukraine, after recognising them as independent states

Russia said the troops have not yet been deployed but will be “peacekeeping” in the regions, which it has backed since 2014. The US said calling them peacekeepers was “nonsense”, and accused Russia of creating a pretext for war.

Several countries have announced sanctions in response.Ukraine’s president said his country was “not afraid of anything or anyone”.

In a late-night televised address to the nation, President Volodymyr Zelensky called for “clear and effective actions of support” from Ukraine’s international allies.

“It is very important to see now who our real friend and partner is, and who will continue to scare the Russian Federation with words only,” he added.

Fears over an invasion have been rising in recent months, as Russia has massed some 150,000 troops along Ukraine’s borders, according to US estimates.

At an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council, US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield dismissed Russia’s claims that troops would be taking on a “peacekeeping” role, saying: “We know what they really are.”

Recognising Luhansk and Donetsk as independent was part of Russia’s bid to create a reason to invade Ukraine, she said.

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