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Ukraine moves to impose state of emergency as U.S., allies pressure Russia with sanctions

“The interests of Russia, the security of our citizens are unconditional for us,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday.

Ukraine moved to introduce a state of emergency Wednesday as the United States and its allies ramped up pressure on Russia with sanctions and the threat of more to come, the latest signals that the West fears a full-scale invasion is likely in the coming days.

Kyiv has until now been cooler about the threat of war, but displayed increasing urgency with Russian President Vladimir Putin showing no sign of stepping back from the brink of a deadly new conflict in Europe.

Hopes for a diplomatic resolution to the crisis appeared all but over, with the focus instead on punishing the Kremlin for the moves it has already made and preparing for those Washington and Europe fear will soon follow.

Russia has pushed back against the West’s sanctions and given no indication it would withdraw the 150,000-plus troops it has massed around its neighbor’s borders.

On Wednesday Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council asked the country’s parliament to impose a nationwide state of emergency for an initial 30 days. The government also urged all Ukrainian citizens to leave Russia and has started conscripting reservists between the ages of 18 and 60.

Recent estimates have put the number of Ukrainians living in Russia between 1.9 million and 3 million.

“We are aware of the risks that exist from the Russian Federation, we clearly understand that our army is ready to fight back,” Ukraine’s top security official, Oleksiy Danilov, told reporters after asking lawmakers to approve the state of emergency.

Ukraine’s parliament also gave initial approval to a draft law that would allow citizens to carry firearms in self-defense. The law is yet to be finalized and approved.

The moves follow an escalation in the ongoing conflict in the country’s east, and a highly provocative set of moves from Moscow.

Putin said Tuesday that Russia’s recognition of two regions in eastern Ukraine controlled by Russian-backed separatists stretched to large swaths of territory held by the Ukrainian military. The move further raised concerns a broader armed conflict could break out as Russian troops move in, and came after the Russian leader gained parliamentary approval to use his armed forces abroad.

“Our country is always open for direct and honest dialogue, for the search for diplomatic solutions to the most complex problems,” Putin said Wednesday in a video statement released to coincide with the annual Defender of the Fatherland Day.

“But I repeat: The interests of Russia, the security of our citizens are unconditional for us.”

A day earlier, President Joe Biden said that Putin’s order of troops into eastern Ukraine, the area controlled by Russian-backed separatists, amounted to “the beginning of a Russian invasion.”

“We still believe that Russia is poised to go much further and launch a massive military attack against Ukraine,” Biden said in remarks at the White House.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken canceled a planned meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov — a further sign of the waning window for diplomacy.

U.S. allies including the European Union, Canada, Germany, Britain, Australia and Japan have all announced they have imposed or will impose sanctions against Russia.

Chief among their targets were Russian banks. Although political opposition figures in Washington, London and elsewhere said the measures did not hit hard enough, Biden and his allies have made it clear that more measures will be imposed should Russian forces cross into Ukrainian-controlled territory.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced earlier Tuesday that he would halt the regulatory approval process for Nord Stream 2, a controversial pipeline that bypasses Ukrainian transit infrastructure to deliver Russian gas directly to Germany.

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