Russia-Ukraine live updates: 5 ‘Ukrainian saboteurs’ killed, Putin recognises rebel regions

Reports of the first fatalities in the Russia-Ukraine conflict have emerged, as an aggressive move by Vladimir Putin pushes tensions near breaking point.

Russia claims that five Ukrainian “saboteurs” have been killed while attempting to breach the border, as the threat of all-out war continues to escalate.

Tensions have also skyrocketed after Russian President Vladimir Putin made the inflammatory decision to recognise two rebel regions as separate entities to Ukraine – a move which insiders say has drastically escalated the threat of violence.

It comes after US President Joe Biden and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin yesterday agreed in principle to participate in a summit over the Ukraine crisis – on the proviso Russia does not invade the nation.

The news was confirmed by French President Emmanuel Macron’s office on Monday, and was later confirmed by White House press secretary Jen Psaki.

As the crisis rages on, US intelligence has this week revealed that Mr Putin has given the order for his troops to invade Ukraine, with the Russian army now poised to strike.

Around three-quarters of Russia’s total forces have reportedly been deployed against Ukraine, with almost 200,000 Russian and separatist forces positioned in the area near the border.

Read on for the latest live updates.

Five Ukrainian ‘saboteurs’ killed

Russian military officials have claimed that five Ukrainian “saboteurs” have been killed while attempting to breach the border.

According to the officials, the “diversionary reconnaissance” group were intercepted and their vehicles destroyed in addition to the deaths, although Ukraine has denied the allegations, insisting no Ukrainian forces were positioned in the Rostov region where the alleged fatalities occurred.

The claims come as Moscow continues to deny it was planning to invade Ukraine, despite intelligence from the West suggesting otherwise.

Putin recognises rebel regions

Russian President Vladimir Putin will sign a decree recognising two Ukraine rebel regions in a move that will drastically increase tensions in the region.

The move means Putin will acknowledge the breakaway regions – the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR), which are located in eastern Ukraine – as separate regions from Ukraine.

The decision has disappointed the West, and threatens to scupper a planned summit between Putin and Joe Biden, which is due to be held provided Russia does not invade Ukraine.

In a televised address, Putin claimed Ukraine was part of Russia’s history and had never been an independent nation.

“If Ukraine was to join NATO it would serve as a direct threat to the security of Russia,” he said.

Other nations fear they’ll be next: Payne

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne has told 2GB fellow Eastern European, such as Poland and Lithuania, nations are growing increasingly “concerned” they could be next on Russia’s hit list.

“This is obviously a very very serious situation,” Ms Payne said on air.

“Countries in the region are very concerned, that was certainly the message they were sending.

“These are countries that have fought their way out of this kind of oppression in the past, they have done so with courage and with strength they have grown and developed.”

She said Australia was willing to assist other European nations in need.

“Australia has been very clear our commitment to their sovereignty and territorial integrity, particularly specifically the case of Ukraine right now … we will not be changing that position,” Ms Payne said.

“We will be continuing to request and suggest very very strongly … this is not inevitable, this does not have to happen, there are still choices to be made by Russia.”

Europe rolls out sanctions

The European Union earlier threatened to impose tough sanctions against Russia if it recognised the breakaway regions, and if Russia then annexed the areas.

Those threats were ignored, with Mr Putin signing a decree recognising the rebel regions, after confirming the move to French and German leaders shortly beforehand.

“If there is annexation, there will be sanctions, and if there is recognition, I will put the sanctions on the table and the ministers will decide,” the EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said in the wake of a meeting of EU foreign ministers.

Originally published as Russia kills 5 ‘Ukrainian saboteurs’ as Vladimir Putin recognises rebel regions

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