Russia has tightened its grip on Ukraine but will Putin now go for the jugular?

ITV News Correspondent Dan Rivers reports from Shchastia, where many residents appear to be under almost constant bombardment by Russian-backed forces

This morning video and photos are circulating on social media showing Russian troops and armour moving into the two separatist republics in eastern Ukraine.

This should surprise no one after President Putin’s rambling speech culminating in Russia’s official recognition of the two enclaves - Donetsk and Luhansk.

It’s important to remember Russia has effectively run these two territories as vassal states for eight years.

They use the Rouble, their inhabitants are eligible for Russian passports, Russia supplies the weapons, the tactics and intelligence. Now Russian soldiers will be deploying into the trenches, facing down Ukraine troops along the 300 mile line of contact.

It presents President Zelensky with a challenge. Effectively the so called Minsk II agreement is now dead; it was supposed to ban heavy weapons from a 15 kilometre exclusion zone along the frontline.

Dan Rivers reports from the village of Shchastya close to the line of contact in the Luhansk region where a power station has been hit, leaving locals without energy

If Russia has now brought in tanks and artillery, will Ukraine respond in kind, moving up heavy weapons as well? And bear in mind that the separatist enclaves are on the Russian time zone - an hour ahead of Ukraine time.

Everyone is waiting to see whether Russia now tries to push out further from the line of contact taking more of the two Oblasts or administrative regions to which the separatists lay claim.

Then of course there is the small matter of the 190,000 Russian troops which are still on standby along Ukraine’s northern border.

Videos on social media show tanks poised to move, their crews undoubtedly getting anxious to deploy after weeks living in their vehicles.

If Russia has Ukraine by the throat, her grip just got tighter; choking off any chance of the cities of Luhansk and Donetsk being returned to Ukrainian control.

Now the world is waiting to see if Putin goes for the jugular and launches a lightning assault on cities like Kharkiv and Kyiv, in his bid to re-establish the boundaries of the Soviet Union and bring a new Iron Curtain down across Eastern Europe.