United States President Joe Biden on Monday “strongly” condemned Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to recognise Ukraine’s breakaway regions as independent as he spoke with world leaders after the latest escalation in tensions. 

In a call with Ukrainian President Vlodymyr Zelenskyy, Biden reaffirmed the US’ commitment to the country’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, the White House said in a statement. 

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Biden “strongly condemned Russian President Putin’s decision to purportedly recognize the ‘independence’ of the so-called DNR and LNR regions of Ukraine,” the statement said, adding the US will respond “strongly and swiftly” along with its allies to any further Russian aggression against Ukraine.

This comes after Putin, in a fiery speech, recognised Ukraine’s rebel regions of Donestsk and Luhansk as independent as he blamed the US-led alliance NATO for the ongoing crisis. 

Sweeping through more than a century of history, he painted today’s Ukraine as a modern construct that is inextricably linked to Russia. He charged that Ukraine had inherited Russia’s historic lands and after the Soviet collapse was used by the West to contain Russia.

Hours later, Putin ordered troops into the separatist-controlled regions, calling it an effort to “maintain peace” as a long-feared Russian invation of Ukraine seemed imminent if not already underway. 

Meanwhile, Biden spoke with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz regarding the crisis. The leaders discussed “how they will continue to coordinate their response on next steps”, the White House said. 

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Biden also signed an executive order that prohibits new investment, trade, and financing by U.S. persons in Ukraine’s breakaway regions.

The White House said these measures were in response to Putin’s decision to recognise the new ‘independent’ regions, and are different from the “swift and severe economic measures we are prepared to issue with Allies and partners in response to a further Russian invasion of Ukraine”.