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Russia’s Putin recognizes sovereignty of 2 separatist Ukrainian regions

Russia's President Vladimir Putin. (Alexei Nikolsky/Russian Presidential Press and Information Office/TASS/Abaca Press/TNS)
February 21, 2022

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced Russia would recognize the sovereignty of two separatist areas in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region on Monday. The decision could lead to Russia self-justifying its invasion of Ukraine.

The two separatist states, known as the Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) and the Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR), are areas controlled by pro-Russian separatists. The New York Times reported Putin announced Russia’s plans to formally recognize the DNR and LNR’s sovereignty in a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron.

“The president of Russia said that he intended to sign the relevant decree in the near future,” Russia’s Kremlin told the New York Times. “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.”

Shortly after the Kremlin statement, Sky News tweeted footage purportedly showing Putin signing a document recognizing DNR and LNR. “Vladimir Putin has declared he recognises the two separatist regions, Donetsk and Luhansk, in Ukraine as independent and has signed a decree recognising their independence.”

The decision to recognize the DNR and LNR as sovereign, in effect, carves out the two areas as from under Ukraine’s territorial control. The decision to recognize the breakaway areas comes as Russian state media has repeatedly claimed Ukraine has attacked the pro-Russian areas in recent days. Ukraine has denied initiating any of the fighting with the separatist areas. Western officials have accused Russia of faking Ukrainian attacks on the pro-Russian elements in order to create a pretext for its troops to intervene by crossing into Ukraine.

By recognizing the DNR and LNR as sovereign, Russia could claim it is not invading Ukraine but instead intervening militarily on behalf of sovereign states being attacked by Ukraine. As many as 190,000 Russian troops are currently gathered near Ukraine’s border.

Following Putin’s decision to recognize DNR and LNR, Associated Press reporter Zeke Miller tweeted, “Putin urged Russian lawmakers to sign treaties with Ukraine’s rebel regions, enabling Moscow’s military support for them.”

Following the reported announcement, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky tweeted, “Given the statements made at the meeting of the Security Council of the Russian Federation, I held urgent consultations with @EmmanuelMacron and [German Chancellor Olaf Scholz] and convened the National Security and Defense Council.”

Following Putin’s actions, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said, “We have anticipated a move like this from Russia and are ready to respond immediately. President Biden will soon issue an Executive Order that will prohibit new investment, trade, and financing by U.S. persons to, from, or in the so-called DNR and LNR regions of Ukraine.”

“This E.O. will also provide authority to impose sanctions on any person determined to operate in those areas of Ukraine,” Psaki added. “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.”

Psaki said the sanctions for Putin recognizing DNR and LNR would be separate from sanctions the Biden administration has already threatened if Russia chooses to further invade Ukraine.

NATO also issued a condemnation of Putin’s actions.

“NEW: @NATO condemns #Russia’s recognition of self-proclaimed #Donetsk People’s Republic, #Luhansk People’s Republic,” Voice of America reporter Jeff Seldin tweeted. “‘This further undermines #Ukraine’s sovereignty & territorial integrity…and violates the Minsk Agreements” per SecGen @jensstoltenberg.'”

Deutsche Welle also reported German chancellor Olaf warned Moscow against recognizing the breakaway area and said such actions would be “a unilateral breach” of the 2015 ceasefire to what has been an ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine.

Reuters reporter Idrees Ali tweeted, “The European Union will ask member states to decide over sanctions on Russia should Moscow recognise the self-declared Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics in eastern Ukraine, the EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, said on Monday.”