Putin recognizes separatist eastern Ukrainian regions
By Vladimir Isachenkov, Yuras Karmanau and Lorne Cook
MOSCOW (AP)– Russian President President Vladimir Putin has recognized the independence of separatist regions in eastern Ukraine, a move that will severely ratchet up tensions with the West amid fears that his country could invade Ukraine at any moment and use skirmishes as a pretext for an attack. Putin’s announcement comes after a meeting of the presidential Security Council and paves the way for Russia to openly send troops and weapons to the long-running conflict pitting Ukrainian forces against Moscow-backed rebels. A 2015 peace deal ended large-scale fighting, but violence has simmered and has seen a spike in recent weeks amid the wider crisis.