The US “strongly” condemned Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision Monday to recognize Ukraine’s breakaway regions of Donetsk and Luhansk as independent states.

Earlier, President Joe Biden had a phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky followed by talks with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz regarding escalations near Ukraine’s borders.

The leaders “strongly condemned” Putin’s decision, said the White House, adding: “They discussed how they will continue to coordinate their response on next steps”

During his call with Zelensky, Biden reaffirmed the US’s commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. He updated Zelensky on the US response, including his plan to issue sanctions.

“President Biden reiterated that the United States would respond swiftly and decisively, in lock-step with its Allies and partners, to further Russian aggression against Ukraine,” said another statement.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also “strongly” condemned the move, saying it “represents a complete rejection of Russia’s commitments under the Minsk agreements, directly contradicts Russia’s claimed commitment to diplomacy, and is a clear attack on Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”.

“Our support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity as well as for the government and people of Ukraine is unwavering. We stand with our Ukrainian partners in strongly condemning President Putin’s announcement,” Blinken said in a statement.

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.

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

The US, with its European allies, has said 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 that 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 since then. The conflict has taken more than 13,000 lives, according to the UN.

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