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The Pentagon expects Russian forces to advance towards Lugansk and Donetsk

The Russian president recognized the independence of two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine on Monday, exacerbating a crisis the West fears could turn into a full-scale war.

In a lengthy televised address, Putin described Ukraine as an integral part of Russia’s history, said eastern Ukraine was an ancient Russian land and was confident that the Russian people would support his decision.

The Kremlin said that Putin announced his decision in two phone calls with the leaders of Germany and France, who expressed their disappointment. State television showed footage of Putin signing the decree.

Moscow’s move could undermine last-minute efforts to hold a summit with US President Joe Biden aimed at preventing Russia from invading Ukraine.

The ruble extended its losses as Putin talked about the issue, dropping 3.3 percent on the day to 79.83 against the dollar.

Putin ended his speech by declaring the recognition of the independence of the two regions, and delved into history, starting from the era of the Ottoman Empire until the recent days, which witnessed an escalating tension over the expansion of NATO to the east, a source of great inconvenience to Moscow in the current crisis.

Putin said: “I consider it necessary to take a decision that should have been taken a long time ago, which is the immediate recognition of the independence and sovereignty of the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Lugansk People’s Republic.”

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