Top EU top officials on Monday condemned Russia’s recognition of the separatist Luhansk and Donetsk regions of eastern Ukraine, calling the move a “blatant violation of international law.” 

In a joint statement, European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen condemned “in the strongest possible terms the decision by the Russian President to proceed with the recognition of the non-government controlled areas of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts of Ukraine as independent entities.”

They also said that the EU “will react with sanctions against those involved in this illegal act.”

Michel, von der Leyen, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, and European Parliament President Roberta Metsola also shared the same message on social media.

“The recognition of the two separatist territories in Ukraine is a blatant violation of international law, the territorial integrity of Ukraine and the Minsk agreements,” they wrote.

“The EU and its partners will react with unity, firmness and with determination in solidarity with Ukraine,” the EU leaders added. 

Rising tensions

Putin announced the recognition in a speech Monday that also attacked Ukraine’s government and the US and accused the West of ignoring Moscow’s core security concerns.

Earlier Monday, after a meeting of EU foreign ministers, Borrell promised sanctions against Russia if it recognizes the two breakaway regions.

Tensions have recently risen dramatically in eastern Ukraine, with reports of a growing number of cease-fire violations, multiple shelling incidents, and evacuation of civilians from the pro-Russian separatist regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.

The US, with its European allies, has been warning that Russia is setting the stage to invade Ukraine after having amassed over 100,000 troops and heavy equipment in and around its neighbor.

Russia has denied it is preparing to invade and instead accuses Western countries of undermining its security through NATO’s expansion towards its borders.

In 2014, Moscow began to support separatist forces in eastern Ukraine against the central government, a policy that it has maintained for the past seven years.

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