A service member of the Ukrainian armed forces is seen using a periscope while observing the area at fighting positions on the line of separation near the rebel-controlled city of Donetsk, Ukraine. Kyiv and its Western allies have accused Russia of plotting 'false flag' operations to fake Ukrainian attacks in order to serve as a pretext for an all-out assault on its neighbour. [File: Serhiy Takhmazov/Reuters]
By David Child and Ramy Allahoum | AL JAZEERA

■ Moscow’s move will likely torpedo a last-minute bid for a summit to prevent Russia from invading Ukraine ■

(AL JAZEERA) — Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree recognising the two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine as independent entities.

The West has repeatedly warned Russia not to recognise the separatist regions in Donetsk and Luhansk – a move that effectively buries a fragile peace process in the region.

Putin’s announcement 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.

Here are the latest updates:

Putin accuses Ukraine of shelling, killing civilians in Donbass

Russian President Vladimir Putin accused Ukrainian forces of killing civilians by shelling residential areas in separatist-held eastern Ukraine.

Ukraine has denied targeting civilians and accuses Russia-backed separatists of shelling residential areas, something they in turn deny.

United Kingdom denounces Russia’s recognition

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson says Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recognition of the breakaway republics of Donetsk and Lugansk was “plainly in breach of international law” and was a “flagrant violation of the sovereignty” of Ukraine.

Map of Ukraine, showing Donetsk, Luhansk, and the city of Marinka. (Image courtesy AL JAZEERA)

Russian leader says Ukraine entry into NATO already decided

President Vladimir Putin says Ukraine’s entry into NATO has already been decided in advance.

He added the alliance has completed ignored Russia’s concerns about NATO’s advances in the region, and Moscow’s demands for security guarantees were “completely rejected”.

“Russia has every right to protect its security, and that’s what we’ll do,” said Putin.

Putin: Ukraine seeks to build nuclear weapons

Vladimir Putin says Ukraine plans to build its own nuclear weapons, calling it an unacceptable move for Moscow.

In a televised address, Putin claimed Ukraine sought to achieve it by using Soviet technology.

Comparison of military might of Ukraine and Russia. (Image courtesy AL JAZEERA)

Putin: Ukraine authorities are ‘contaminated’

Vladimir Putin says Ukraine’s authorities are “contaminated” by the virus of nationalism and corruption, bashing the neighbouring country’s leaders.

In a televised address, the Russian president also said Ukraine never had a tradition of genuine statehood.

EU warns of sanctions if Russia recognises Ukraine breakaway regions

The EU has joined calls for Russia not to annex or recognise breakaway Ukrainian regions, warning of sanctions from the 27-nation bloc should Moscow do so.

“If there is annexation, there will be sanctions, and if there is recognition, I will put the sanctions on the table and the ministers will decide,” the EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said after a meeting of the bloc’s foreign ministers.