Russia recognises two rebel regions of Ukraine as independent countries

Ratcheting up the tensions over Ukraine by several notches, Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday night signed a decree recognising two breakaway regions of eastern Ukraine – Donetsk and Lugansk – as sovereign nations.

Putin signed the document after an hour-long, detailed televised address to the nation in which he explained the rationale for the decision, and why he doesn’t trust the words of Nato and the US. He said the Nato’s eastward expansion, which is contrary to its past assurances, is a clear threat to Russia’s security.

Without concealing his disdain and mistrust of the treaty organisation, the Russian president said sanctions will be imposed on Moscow regardless of what it does. He said the Western powers will come up with one excuse or the other to impose sanctions on Russia, adding that he should have recognised the two rebel provinces of eastern Ukraine long back.

“Let me stress once again that Ukraine is not just a neighbouring country for us. It is an integral part of our own history, culture, and spiritual world,” he said, emphasising that Ukrainians are “people Russians have blood and family ties with,” as well as friends, neighbours and colleagues.

Ahead of the televised speech, Kremlin said Putin had put French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on notice about recognizing the two regions. The two leaders, while expressing their disappointment, reportedly offered to maintain diplomatic efforts to avoid an all-out war.

“Such a step would be in stark contradiction to the Minsk Agreements for the peaceful settlement of the conflict in eastern Ukraine and would be a unilateral breach of these agreements on the part of Russia,” Scholz’s office said in a statement, tweeted by the Germany’s Permanent Representation to the EU Sebastian Fischer. 

Putin’s announcement, which was preceded by an emergency meeting of the country’s security council, has not gone down well with the European Union and the US. “The recognition of the two separatist territories in Ukraine is a blatant violation of international law, the territorial integrity of Ukraine and the Minsk agreements,” said Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission’s president, referring to peace agreements covering eastern Ukraine.

The EU and the US have already threatened to impose sanctions on Russia if it recognises the breakaway Ukrainian regions. The White House issued a statement saying Russia’s action was expected and US President Joe Biden would soon issue an executive order banning US citizens and companies from investing in or conducting business with the two newly recognised countries.

With the US starting the process of slapping economic sanctions, the window for a diplomatic resolution to the crisis is closing.

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