Out of Mind Towards War: Putin's Russia Recognized Temporarily Occupied Territories of Ukraine as Independent Entities

Russian President Vladimir Putin signing the agreement on friendship and cooperation with so-called "Donetsk People's Republic" and "Luhansk People's Republic" / Photo credit: 24 Channel
Russian President Vladimir Putin signing the agreement on friendship and cooperation with so-called "Donetsk People's Republic" and "Luhansk People's Republic" / Photo credit: 24 Channel

The President of the Russian Federation made an announcement on recognition of the so-called "Donetsk People's Republic" and "Luhansk People's Republic". The decision means Russia's withdrawal from Minsk agreements meant to compromise the conflict between Russia and Ukraine

On February, 21 Russian President Vladimir Putin held a speech on Russian state television concerning his views on Ukrainian history, conflict in Donbas (Eastern Ukraine), and relationships with NATO. In conclusion, he announced he officially recognized the formations in Donbas as independent and sovereign states, Defense Express reports.

Following the President's speech, the video of Vladimir Putin signing orders on recognition of Russian-backed illegal formations and agreements on friendship and cooperation with the leaders of the Russia-controlled territories Denis Pushilin ("Donetsk People's Republic") and Leonid Pasechnik ("Luhansk People's Republic").

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Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation, signed executive orders "On the Recognition of the Donetsk People’s Republic" and "On the Recognition of the Lugansk People’s Republic". The ceremony also featured signing Treaties of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance between the illegal formations and Russia / Photo credit: President of Russia official website

The Follow-Up

The statement received an immediate response. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the US has anticipated a movie like this from Russia and is ready to "respond immediately".

President Joe 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" and also "provide authority to impose sanctions on any person determined to operate in those areas of Ukraine," written in the statement.

Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, stated the US was ready for Putin's choice and ready to respond with sanctions immediately / Photo credit: Kevin Dietsch / Getty Images

“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,” the White House official said.

White House called Putin's decision a "blatant violation of Russia’s international commitments" and said the details on the additional sanctions would be announced "shortly".

The President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy held an urgent meeting of the National Security and Defense Council, at which representatives of the security and defense sector reported on the situation in Ukraine and at its state borders. The information was published on the Official website of the President of Ukraine.

"The state would fulfill all its obligations to its citizens – residents of the temporarily occupied territories of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, who would express a desire to move to the controlled part of Ukraine. If necessary, Ukraine is also ready to expand these commitments," said Oleksiy Danilov, the secretary of the Council.

The Council has been put into operation 24/7 in case the members of the National Security and Defense Council will need to meet again quickly.

Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba requested an urgent meeting of the United Nations Security Council to discuss the Kremlin's decision:

"Ukraine has requested an urgent meeting of the United Nations Security Council due to Russia’s illegal actions. We have already sent the request to the Council."

As of the time this publication is prepared, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has arranged talks with the President of the European Council Charles Michel and President of Turkiye Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and currently is preparing an official address:

"After the NSDC meeting, discussed the current situation with Boris Johnson. Now we are urgently preparing an address and after that, talks with Charles Michel and Recep Tayyip Erdogan are planned."

The NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg published a statement on the recognition by Russia of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk ''People’s Republics'', which goes:

"I condemn Russia’s decision to extend recognition to the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic” and “Luhansk People’s Republic”. This 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".

Jens Stoltenberg, the NATO Secretary General, condemned Russia's decision to recognize Russia-backed formations / Photo credit: North Atlantic Treaty Organization press center

NATO urges Russia, "in the strongest possible terms, to choose the path of diplomacy" in the resolution of the conflict and de-escalation of the tense situation in the region, caused by the Russian military build-up near Ukraine.

Violating the International Law

Vladimir Putin's decision followed by official agreements with the leaders of the so-called "DPR/LPR" is a direct violation of international law and the sovereignty of Ukraine in particular. Minsk agreements are often mentioned in the framework of this discourse. Here follows a brief excourse in the contents of this document.

These are the agreements signed in Minsk in 2014 and 2015 by Ukraine, Russia, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and the self-proclaimed leaders of pro-Russian governing institutions in Donbas. The purpose of both documents was to provide a mechanism for resolving the military conflict in Donbas.

You can read all the points of the agreements in a publication by Reuters. In particular, the points 4th and 9th of the 2015 document went:"4. To start a dialogue on interim self-government for the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, in accordance with Ukrainian law, and acknowledge their special status by parliamentary resolution" and "9. Restoration of full control of the state border by the government of Ukraine".

By recognizing pro-Russian separatists' formations as independent entities, Russia violates at least these two points. Russia ruled against Ukrainian law and deprived Ukraine of the authority to control the regions.

Chronological Background

Part of the Donbas region in Eastern Ukraine is currently controlled by Russian-backed illegal military formations. These territories are recognized by international law as occupied by Russia. The current administration of these areas is performed by pro-Russian leaders, calling themselves as governors of Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics ("DPR/LPR") accordingly.

After the recent increase of shelling on the frontline with Ukrainian Joint Forces Operation, which caused damage to civilians, the leader of so-called "DPR" Denis Pushylin had called on Donetsk residents to evacuate to the Rostov region. He accused Ukrainian Armed Forces of Preparing an offensive operation in Donbas. The accusations were refuted by the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense the same day, February 18. The information provided by Ukrinform news agency.

On Thursday, February 17, Ukrainian village Stanytsia Luhanska was shelled. A kindergarten was hit, where 20 children and 18 workers were at that moment. Three people from kindergarten staff were injured / Photo credit: Joint Forces Operation

Later the leaders of "DPR/LPR" released separate statements on February 19 announcing a full troop mobilization and urging reservists to show up at military enlistment offices. In a report released on February 19, observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) reported more than 1,500 ceasefire violations on February 18, the highest number this year. The OSCE's Special Monitoring Mission that is deployed in the conflict zone confirmed one civilian casualty in a government-controlled area of Donetsk, Radio Liberty reports. Ukrainian military assumed that the increase in the number of shelling is connected to Russia trying to create a pretext to invade Ukraine.

Finally, Denis Pushilin and Leonid Pasechnik, , the de facto heads of separatist-occupied regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, appealed for the Kremlin's official recognition of the "DPR/LPR". According to Ukrinform referencing Interfax's report, both pro-Russian leaders asked the President of Russia Vladimir Putin to consider concluding agreements on friendship and cooperation with their regions, including on defense cooperation.

Read more: ​While NATO Warns Russia Trying to Stage Pretext to Attack Ukraine Number of Attacks in Donbas Increase
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