Putin announces ‘special operation’ in Donbass

The special military operation will be aimed at “the defense of” the newly-recognized republics of Donetsk and Lugansk

Russian President Vladimir Putin has announced he ordered his country’s military to conduct a special operation in the Donbass region after the leaders of the breakaway republics asked Moscow for military assistance in response to what they claim is an increase in “Ukrainian aggression.”

“Circumstances require us to take decisive and immediate action,” the order reads. “The People’s Republics of Donbass turned to Russia with a request for help. In this regard, in accordance with Article 51, part 7 of the UN Charter, with the sanction of the Federation Council and in pursuance of the friendship treaties ratified by the Federal Assembly and mutual assistance with the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, I have decided to conduct a special military operation,” Putin concludes.

At the same time, in address to the public, Putin said that he wanted to “demilitarize” and “de-Nazify” Ukraine. Within moments of the speech, a series of explosions were reported in cities across Ukraine, with a CNN purporting to hear a blast in the capital, Kiev.

The decision comes days after Moscow recognized the independence of the Donetsk and Lugansk breakaway republics in the Donbass, alleging Kiev had not lived up to its obligations under the Minsk agreements struck in 2014 and 2015 to resolve conflict between separatists and the Ukrainian government.

Officials later authorized what they describe as a “peacekeeping operation” in the region. Western leaders for months had predicted a looming incursion, claiming Russia has amassed troops near its border with Ukraine and in neighboring Belarus, where Moscow has conducted joint drills in recent weeks.

Russia has so far denied plans for an attack, however, and maintains its actions in the Donbass will be defensive in nature. The US and its European partners have already imposed sanctions on a series of Russian financial institutions, officials and lawmakers following the recognition of the break-away states, vowing to bring more penalties should Moscow “further invade” Ukraine.

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