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Russia-Ukraine: What to know as world awaits next moves

BRUSSELS (AP) — World leaders waited to see if Russian President Vladimir Putin would cast the die and order troops deeper into Ukraine.

With Russian lawmakers having authorized Putin to use military force outside the country and Ukraine surrounded on three sides by more than 150,000 troops, the rumble of tanks did not appear far off Wednesday.

The U.S. and key European allies accused Moscow of having already crossed a red line by formalizing a Russian military deployment to regions of eastern Ukraine controlled by Russia-backed separatists. Ukrainian authorities, after weeks of trying to project calm, signaled increasing concern.

Here are the things to know about the conflict over Ukraine and the security crisis in Eastern Europe:

PUTIN HONORS FALLEN SOLDIERS IN MOSCOW

Russia marked Defender of the Fatherland Day, a holiday high in national symbolism. On the edge of Moscow’s Red Square, soldiers put red carnations on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier while Putin honored the memory of the ones who died in past wars.

Putin whipped up Russian nationalism on Monday with a fiery speech indicating that Ukraine historically had no cause for being. He said during Wednesday’s commemoration that Russia would continue to strengthen and modernize its army and navy, “striving to increase their effectiveness, so they are fitted out with the most cutting-edge equipment.”

The head of the rebel government in Donetsk, one of the separatist held areas of eastern Ukraine known as Donbas, issued a statement marking the Russian holiday and celebrating Putin’s decision to recognize the region’s independence.

“Our state has been in a state of war for almost eight years, which is being waged in all directions: military, informational, ideological, economic,” Denis Pushilin said.

WHAT IS HAPPENING IN UKRAINE?

The Ukrainian government advised its citizens against travel to Russia and recommended that any who were there leave immediately.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called up some of the country’s military reservists as the threat of a Russian invasion grew. “We need to quickly add additional staff to the Ukrainian army and other military formations,” Zelenskyy said.

The head of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council called for a nationwide state of emergency — subject to parliamentary approval. Oleksiy Danilov said it could include additional protection for public facilities, restrictions on traffic, and additional transport and document checks.

Kyiv reported 29 morning shelling incidents on the frontline in eastern Ukraine, where rebels have held large swaths territory since a 2014 Russian incursion of Russia. The separatists said shelling from the Ukrainian forces’ side increased.

WHEN WILL THE WEST IMPOSE MORE SANCTIONS?

Ukraine’s forces are no match for Moscow’s military might, so Kyiv is counting on other countries to hit Russia hard – with sanctions.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Wednesday on Twitter that the West should target Putin where it hurts without delay. “Hit his economy and cronies. Hit more. Hit hard. Hit now,” Kuleba wrote.

Ukraine’s Western supporters said that they had already sent out a strong message with a first batch of sanctions on Tuesday. They said Russian troops moving beyond the separatist-held regions would produce more painful sanctions and possibly the biggest war in a generation on Europe’s mainland.

“This is the toughest sanctions regime we’ve ever put in place against Russia,” British Foreign Secretary said of measures that target key banks that fund the Russian military and oligarchs. “But it will go further, if we see a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.”

The European Union is expected to finalize a similar package, which also targets legislators in the lower house of Russia’s parliament and makes it tougher for Moscow to get on EU financial and capital markets.

U.S. actions announced Tuesday target civilian leaders in Russia’s leadership hierarchy as well as two Russian banks, considered especially close to the Kremlin and Russia’s military, with more than $80 billion in assets.

WHO IS BACKING RUSSIA IN THE CRISIS?

Russia is not facing the rest of the world on its own. China is leaning toward Russia and accused the U.S. of poking up the Ukraine crisis.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said Washington “keeps sending weapons to Ukraine, creating fear and panic and even playing up the threat of war.”

She said China has been calling on all parties to respect and pay attention to each other’s legitimate security concerns.

Earlier Moscow and Beijing issued a joint statement backing Russia’s objections to NATO accepting Ukraine and other former Soviet republics as members and buttressing China’s claim to the self-governing island of Taiwan.

Russia itself, meanwhile, accused the head of the United Nations of taking sides in the escalating crisis. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Gutteres “found himself under pressure from the West and made several statements the other day about what is happening in the east of Ukraine that do not correspond to his status and his powers.”

The outcome of the Ukraine crisis is seen as having ramifications for China over its threat to invade Taiwan, a close U.S. ally, and its border dispute with India and its claims in the South China and East China seas, where it has raised concerns over conflict with Japan, the Philippines and others.

Hua said those accusing China of contradicting its stance on respecting national sovereignty and territorial integrity in relation to Russia’s moves toward Ukraine were “either driven by ulterior motives or deliberately distorting or misinterpreting China.”

“To correctly and objectively understand the Ukraine situation and seek a rational and peaceful solution, it is necessary to understand the merits of the Ukraine issue and properly address relevant countries’ legitimate security concerns on the basis of equality and mutual respect,” Hua said.

She said sanctions imposed on Russia by the U.S. and others have been ineffective in reducing tensions while causing “serious difficulties to relevant countries’ economies and livelihoods.”

“The U.S. should never undermine the legitimate rights and interests of China and other parties when dealing with the Ukraine issue and relations with Russia,” Hua said.

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