London: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is chairing an emergency meeting of the Cabinet Office Briefing Room A (COBRA) on Tuesday morning as the UK plans further sanctions on Moscow, following Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to recognise two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine.

The meeting comes as UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid said given that tanks have been seen near one of those regions of Donetsk, it can be concluded that the invasion of Ukraine has begun”.

The COBRA meeting follows widespread condemnation of Russia’s move, which Johnson termed a violation of international law and an ill omen and very dark time , declaring that things are moving in the wrong direction in the region.

Downing Street said the COBRA meeting would discuss the latest developments in Ukraine and coordinate the UK response, including agreeing a “significant package of sanctions to be introduced immediately”.

The United Kingdom will be announcing new sanctions on Russia in response to its breach of international law and attack on Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. There will be severe economic consequences to its actions, UK Ambassador Barbara Woodward told an emergency United Nations Security Council meeting on Ukraine.

This Council must be united in: calling on Russia to de-escalate immediately; condemning aggression against a sovereign nation, and defending the territorial integrity of Ukraine; calling on Russia to respect its obligations under the Charter to the peaceful resolution of disputes. Russia has brought us to the brink. We urge Russia to step back, she said.

UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss confirmed that sanctions are in the works, which will use recent legislation to impose restrictions on people and organisations linked to Russia.

The UK government’s crisis response meetings are held in the Cabinet Office Briefing Rooms and are most commonly take place in Briefing Room A – leading to them being referred to as Cobra.

Earlier this month, the UK government passed new legislation that expanded its powers to impose sanctions on those directly linked to Russian actions in Ukraine.

The legislation gave the government powers to impose sanctions on Russian businesses and individuals in strategically significant sectors, such as the chemical, defence, extractives, Information and communication technologies (ICT) and financial services industries.

Several of the UK’s western allies, including the US, France and the European Union, made similar statements condemning Putin’s move and promising sanctions.

On Monday evening, Johnson spoke to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to outline his grave concern and warn that he believed an invasion was a real possibility in the coming hours and days . During the phone call, Johnson promised to “explore sending further defensive support to Ukraine” at the request of the country’s government, as well as detailing sanctions.

The leaders agreed that the West needed to support Ukraine in the event of an invasion but should continue to pursue a diplomatic solution until the last possible second, Downing Street said.

Regardless of President Putin’s actions, the UK would be steadfast in its full support of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, the Prime Minister said, it added.

On Monday, Putin’s actions were classed as an escalation of conflict in the region as he signed a decree recognising the independence of the self-declared people’s republics of Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine.

Russian-backed rebels have been fighting Ukrainian forces in those regions since 2014 and the fears are that military forces could cross Ukraine’s borders to occupy the rebel regions recognised by Russia. Putin claims the troops heading into the two rebel regions will be completing peacekeeping functions.

Russia’s ambassador to the UN said the country was open to diplomatic solutions but also repeated Putin’s accusations blaming Ukraine for escalating aggressions. Ukraine has strongly denied this and declared that it was not afraid and would not yield to Russia.

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