The Bashar Assad regime of Syria said on Tuesday it supports Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to recognize two Ukrainian breakaway republics as independent.
"Syria supports President Putin's decision to recognize the republics of Luhansk and Donetsk and will cooperate with them," the state-run Syrian News Agency (SANA) quoted the regime-affiliated foreign minister, Faisal Mikdad, as telling the Valdai Forum in Moscow on Tuesday.
"What the West is doing against Russia today is similar to what it did against Syria during the terrorist war," he was quoted as saying.
Russia has been a main ally of Assad since war broke out in Syria in 2011. For over a decade, the Assad regime and its backer Russia have ignored the needs and safety of the Syrian people, only eyeing further gains of territory and crushing the opposition. With this aim, the regime has for years bombed civilian facilities such as schools, hospitals and residential areas, causing the displacement of almost half of the country’s population. Both are determined to recapture the last opposition stronghold and normalize political relations with regional countries, particularly within the scope of steps already taken with several Arab countries.
On Monday, Putin informed French President Emmanuel Macron and Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany in a phone call of his decision to sign a decree recognizing the independence of the two pro-Russia republics, which comprise the part of eastern Ukraine known as the Donbass region.
Mikdad said that the United States and the West continue to support terrorism in Syria, which poses a threat to the Middle East and the world.
Russia said Tuesday it wants to engage in diplomacy regarding the future of Ukraine.
"We even said in the worst moments that we are prepared for the negotiation process," said Maria Zakharova, a Foreign Ministry spokesperson, adding that Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov still hopes to meet U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday.
The two men were meant to discuss a possible summit between Putin and U.S. President Joe Biden. However, it's unclear if such a summit is on the cards after Russia's actions. The U.S. is also leading most Western nations in applying heavy sanctions on Russia.
Putin fulfilled many of Ukraine and the West's worst nightmares on Monday when he declared that Ukraine was not a full country and that Russia had to intervene to protect ethnic Russians in Ukraine's east from genocide. The West accuses Putin of fabricating arguments to justify his actions, building upon 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine.
Soloviev.live, a new portal with close ties to the Kremlin, said Russian troops were already in the disputed Donbass region, which has seen Russian-backed separatists engage in a stand-off with Ukrainian forces since 2014.
There was no official confirmation of Russian troop presence. The Donbass separatists accused Ukrainian forces of firing on them.
Fears have been growing of a Russian incursion since it began massing troops on the Ukrainian border last year. Russia has always denied that it was planning any move into Ukraine, despite frequent warnings from the US that just such an attack was about to happen.
Additionally, Russia has demanded that NATO remove all troops from Eastern Europe and wants to open negotiations about a new European security plan.
The question now is how far the West will go in laying sanctions on Russia and what effect they will have. NATO has already ruled out engaging Russia militarily.
EU officials are expected to present a new package of sanctions on Tuesday. The scope of the sanctions – and whom they might affect – remains unknown.
European Council President Charles Michel said he spoke to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and pledged the EU's full support amid the crisis.
"The EU stands by you firmly and fully supports Ukraine's territorial integrity," Michel tweeted. "Russia's move is an attack against international law and the rules-based international order."
Meetings were also under way in London, where Prime Minister Boris Johnson was chairing a meeting that was expected to result in more sanctions on Russia, the Press Association reported.
Meanwhile, China called on all sides to exercise restraint and called for a de-escalation. Turkey, whose relations with Russia run hot and cold, called the move to recognize the separatists "unacceptable."