The EU will follow the US in announcing significant sanctions on Russia today.
It comes after Russian President Vladimir Putting formally recognised two regions in Ukraine as independent.
Donetsk and Luhansk proclaimed their independence from Ukraine after the Kremlin-backed eastern uprising in the wake of Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.
Their independence referendums were not recognised by the international community and Kyiv has accused Moscow of sending large amounts of arms and troops across the border to bolster the separatist movement before they were held.
A ceasefire between Kyiv and the separatist regions, negotiated by France and Germany in 2015, foresaw a large amount of autonomy for the regions under Ukrainian law.
Russia's official recognition of their independence is seen by the Us and EU as a breach of that ceasefire agreement, further narrowing diplomatic options for avoiding conflict.
President Putin announced the move in a televised address last night.
“I consider it necessary to take a long overdue decision to immediately recognise the sovereignty of Donetsk people’s republic and Luhansk people’s republic,” he said.
Tanks and troops have reportedly been spotted in one of the two breakaway regions, with Moscow labelling them “peacekeepers”.
The US Ambassador to the UN dismissed the claims as “nonsense”.
“He has since announced that he will place Russian troops in this region,” she said.
“He calls them peacekeepers. This is nonsense. We know what they really are.”
US President Joe Biden last night signed an Executive Order imposing sanctions on both of the Russian-backed breakaway regions.
The orders bar "new investment, trade and financing by US persons to, from, or in" either of the regions.
The order also provides the authority to impose sanctions on anyone found to be operating in the region.
The White House said further measures will be announced today.
Meanwhile, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Council President Charles Michel condemned the move “in the strongest possible terms”.
“This step is a blatant violation of international law as well as of the Minsk Agreements”, they said in a joint statement.
“The union will react with sanctions against those involved in this illegal act.
“The union reiterates its unwavering support to Ukraine's independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognised borders”.
Tonight’s announcement by President Putin recognising the separatist territories of Ukraine is a violation of international law, and breaches Ukrainian sovereignty.
With our EU partners, we will stand in solidarity with Ukraine.
— Micheál Martin (@MichealMartinTD) February 21, 2022
The Taoiseach's among the world leaders who've expressed solidarity with Ukraine and criticised the Kremlin for breaching international law.
Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney said Ireland supports the EU sanctions.
"Ireland's support for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognised borders and its right to choose its own foreign and security policy path is unwavering,” he said.
He said Ireland supports a “clear and strong EU response, including further sanctions if necessary.