Russia’s President Vladimir Putin recognized the independence of two separatist regions in eastern Ukraine on Monday night.
Listen below to Russian President Vladimir Putin delivering a video address to the nation in Moscow amid fears that an invasion into Ukraine is imminent.
“I deem it necessary to make a decision that should have been made a long time ago, to immediately recognize the independence and sovereignty of the Donetsk Peoples Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic,” Putin said, speaking from a desk in Moscow in translated remarks. “I would request the federal assembly to back this decision and ratify the agreement of friendship and mutual help with both republics.”
The two self-declared heads of Donetsk and Luhansk were present at Putin’s signing of the decrees. The Russian leader said the documents were to ratify an agreement of “friendship” and mutual aid.
“Those who seize the power and keep the power in Kiev, we demand to stop hostilities immediately, otherwise, all the responsibility for the possible continuation of the bloodbath will be on the consciousness of the regime that is ruling in Kiev. By declaring these decisions, I’m confident that I will have support of all the patriotic forces of Russia,” he said.
The decision followed two calls earlier in the day with French President Emmanuel Macron and Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz, both of whom were clear about their rejection of the decision.
“The president of France and the Federal Chancellor of Germany expressed their disappointment with this development. At the same time, they indicated their readiness to continue contacts,” the Kremlin said.
Recognition of Luhansk and Donetsk as independent entities could allow the Moscow-backed separatist leaders to ask Russia for military assistance, which could further pave the way for an offensive.
White House ‘Ready to Respond Immediately’ with Sanctions
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki issued a statement Monday night following Putin’s speech, saying the Biden Administration had “anticipated a move like this from Russia” and was “ready to respond immediately.
“President Biden will soon issue an Executive Order that will prohibit new investment, trade, and financing by US persons to, from, or in the so-called DNR and LNR regions of Ukraine.
“This EO will also provide authority to impose sanctions on any person determined to operate in those areas of Ukraine. The Departments of State and Treasury will have additional details shortly. We will also soon announce additional measures related to today’s blatant violation of Russia’s international commitments.
“To be clear: these measures are separate from, and would be in addition to the swift and severe economic measures we have been preparing in coordination with Allies and partners should Russia further invade Ukraine.
“We are continuing to closely consult with Allies and partners, including Ukraine, on next steps and on Russia’s ongoing escalation along the border with Ukraine,” the statement concluded.
UK: ‘Very Dark Sign’ of Things ‘Moving in the Wrong Direction’
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a tweet shortly after Putin signed the decrees that he had “discussed the events of the last hours with POTUS (President of the United States),” adding that he was launching a meeting of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council. “A conversation with [UK Prime Minister] Boris Johnson is also planned,” he added.
Britain’s prime minister did not wait to make a statement. Speaking to reporters in a televised briefing shortly after the decrees were signed, Johnson called the move a “very dark sign” of things “moving in the wrong direction,” and said the move was “plainly in breach of international law. It is a flagrant violation of the sovereignty and integrity of Ukraine.”
'This is plainly in breach of international law. It is a flagrant violation of the sovereignty and integrity of Ukraine'
Boris Johnson comments on Russian President Vladimir Putin's decision to recognise two separatist Ukrainian republics https://t.co/FgWCHrcbFZ pic.twitter.com/EjcWE843mS
— ITV News (@itvnews) February 21, 2022
Johnson added that Russia’s recognition of Luhansk and Donetsk as independent republics was a “repudiation” of the Minsk peace agreements signed by Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany in 2015 that had brought an end to the conflict in the eastern part of the country.
Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz condemned the plan, and said he plans to consult with France and Ukraine about the situation, his office said Monday night.
EU Says Recognition Not Without Cost
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken wrote in a tweet last week that the Kremlin’s recognition of the independence of Ukraine’s separatist regions “would signify Russia’s wholesale rejection of the Minsk agreements, which remain the best means to resolve the conflict in the Donbas.”
European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen and her co-leader Charles Michel said in a joint statement quoted by AFP that “The Union will react with sanctions against those involved in this illegal act.”
The EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell had said earlier in the day on Monday that if Russia recognizes the independence of Donetsk and Luhansk, EU sanctions would be triggered. “I will put sanctions on the table and [foreign] ministers will approve them,” he said.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said bluntly in a tweet, “I condemn Russia (sic) recognition of Donetsk/Luhansk in Ukraine.” The decision, he said, “further undermines Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, erodes efforts towards a resolution of the conflict, and violates the Minsk Agreements to which Russia is a party.
NATO supports Ukraine sovereignty and territorial integrity,” he added. “We urge Moscow to stop fueling conflict and choose diplomacy.”
I condemn #Russia recognition of Donetsk/Luhansk in #Ukraine. It erodes efforts to resolve the conflict & violates Minsk agreements. #NATO supports Ukraine sovereignty & territorial integrity. We urge Moscow to stop fuelling conflict & choose diplomacy. https://t.co/H4yczPG8XM
— Jens Stoltenberg (@jensstoltenberg) February 21, 2022
The Lower House of the Russian parliament passed a resolution last week urging Putin to recognize the independence of the so-called Luhansk People’s Republic and the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic.
Ukraine Requests Emergency UN Security Council Meeting
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba requested an urgent meeting of the United Nations Security Council Monday to address the rising threat of a Russian invasion, prior to the Kremlin announcement.
The request followed a dramatic escalation in military clashes between Russian-backed forces and Kiev regime troops, in addition to the deployment of Russia’s S-400 aerial defense system along Ukraine’s borders.
According to a report published by The Wall Street Journal, some 700,000 residents of the Donbas – which includes Luhansk and Donetsk – hold Russian passports. In recent days, around one million more have applied for such passports as well.
Kremlin Accuses US, NATO Allies of ‘Using’ Ukraine
The Kremlin claimed in its statement that Putin’s recognition of the two regions as independent entities was a response to “the military aggression of the Ukrainian authorities,” from which, he said, “the civilian population is suffering.”
During a meeting of the Russian Security Council earlier in the day in which members voted almost unanimously in favor of the recognition, Putin accused the US and NATO allies of using Ukraine as “an instrument of confrontation” with Moscow, calling it a “serious, very big threat to us.”
Although the Russian-backed separatists claim the entire Donetsk and Luhansk regions as their territory, they are currently in control of only a third of the sector.
Ukraine Accuses Russia of False Flag Operations
Ukraine has consistently denied plans to attack the separatist regions and has accused Russia of staging attacks made to appear as if the Kiev government ordered them, to justify an invasion.
Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014, subsequently occupying and then annexing the Crimea peninsula and leading to the breakaway from Ukraine of rebel-controlled areas of Donetsk and Luhansk.
More than 14,000 people have died in the fighting between Ukraine and the separatists since that time.