Ukraine conflict: Putin tells Russians security is non-negotiable

 Ukraine conflict: Putin tells Russians security is non-negotiable

President Vladimir Putin has insisted that Russia’s interests and security are non-negotiable, amid reports of more Russian troops moving closer towards Ukraine’s borders.

Mr Putin gave a video address, hours after US President Joe Biden warned of “the beginning of a Russian invasion”.

Russia was always “open for direct and honest dialogue”, Mr Putin said, but he had full confidence in the military.

The West has announced a range of sanctions on Russian interests.

“We’ve cut off Russia’s government from Western financing,” Mr Biden said, after Russia’s upper house of parliament authorised the president to send troops into two parts of eastern Ukraine controlled by Russian-backed separatists.

Mr Putin declared on Monday night that Russia had recognised the independence of the so-called people’s republics of Luhansk and Donetsk, tearing up a peace accord with Ukraine.

Ukraine’s foreign ministry urged all its citizens to leave Russia, warning that the “escalating Russia aggression against Ukraine” could limit consular assistance. The military in Kyiv also announced it was immediately calling up all reservists aged 18 to 60, both officers and privates for a maximum of a year.

Meanwhile, in the rebel-held areas, separatist leader Denis Pushilin said military mobilisation was gathering pace to counter what he described as Ukrainian aggression, adding that he could also ask Russia for help. Appearing alongside him, a senior official from Russia’s ruling United Russia party said 93,000 people had been evacuated to Russia.

Moscow has also begun evacuating its embassy in Kyiv and has lowered its flag there, reports say.