Ukraine: Vladimir Putin recognizes the independence of separatist regions and threatens Kiev

Russian President Vladimir Putin during a televised address on February 21, 2022 in Moscow. (©Sputnik/AFP/Archive/Aleksey NIKOLSKY)

Vladimir Putin confirmed Monday, February 21, 2022 independence of the pro-Russian separatist regions of Eastern Ukraineignoring pressure from the Westerners, who strongly condemned this decision, which risked setting fire to gunpowder.

“I consider it necessary to make this long overdue decision: to immediately recognize the independence of the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic,” Putin said in a televised address that lasted about an hour.

End of the peace process

The Russian President immediately called on Ukraine to immediately stop “military actions” against the separatists or take “responsibility for the ongoing bloodshed.”

Then the President of Russia signed treaties of “friendship and mutual assistance” with these territories.

The recognition concerns the independence of two pro-Russian territories in the Ukrainian Donbass, a mining and industrial basin bordering Russia: the self-proclaimed “republics” of Donetsk and Lugansk.

The measure marks the end of the Franco-German-brokered peace process, which, although regularly broken, has brought to a halt the most violent clashes of this conflict, which has claimed more than 14,000 lives since it began in 2014 following the annexation of Crimea via Moscow.

First of all, it opens the door for the deployment of Russian troops in these regions at the invitation of local authorities.

The announcement comes amid Western fears of an imminent invasion of Ukraine, where more than 150,000 Russian troops have been waiting for weeks, according to Washington.

Ukraine: tension at its peak.
Ukraine: tension at its peak. (©AFP/Patricio ARANA)

“gross violation”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in the evening that he discussed this recognition of Russia with US leader Joe Biden.

The European Union, like NATO and London, condemned the decision, describing it as a “flagrant violation of international law” and saying that it was going to respond “harshly”.

Western countries threatened Moscow with harsh sanctions in case of military aggression, but it was not clear what measures could be taken after this recognition by Russia.

The United States announced sanctions against the separatist regions of Ukraine.

Putin’s decision came at the end of a crazy day when Moscow multiplied accusations against Ukraine, such as destroying a border post with Ukrainian artillery or infiltrating a group of “saboteurs”, so that five people would be killed.

Kyiv vehemently denies these claims, which Westerners say are part of Moscow’s efforts to create a pretext for military intervention.

Putin historian

In a lengthy televised speech, Mr. Putin also reiterated his unsubstantiated “genocide” allegations, which observers say are aimed at bolstering Moscow’s discourse about the need to “protect” Russian speakers in Ukraine.

In a professorial tone, he also delivered a Kremlin-reworked history lesson by presenting Ukraine as an artificial country inseparable from Russia.

Until the very end, the Europeans tried in vain to dissuade Mr. Putin from recognizing the independence of the separatists.

Shortly before his announcement, Mr. Putin communicated his decision to French President Emmanuel Macron and Chancellor Olaf Scholz, mediators in the conflict in eastern Ukraine, who the Kremlin said expressed their “disappointment.”

Mr Macron, who has led European efforts to resolve the Ukraine crisis, convened a defense council on Monday night.

On Sunday evening, the French presidency announced that it had secured the promise of a summit meeting between M.M. Biden and Putin to ease tensions, but on Monday the Kremlin dashed those hopes.

The head of Russian diplomacy, Sergei Lavrov, nevertheless said he would meet with his American counterpart Anthony Blinken on Thursday in Geneva.

Photo published on February 21, 2022 by the press service of the Ukrainian Armed Forces showing Ukrainian soldiers training at an undisclosed location.
Photo published on February 21, 2022 by the press service of the Ukrainian Armed Forces showing Ukrainian soldiers training at an undisclosed location. (© General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine/AFP/STR)

Appeal to the UN

Tensions that have risen steadily in recent months have escalated for three days as clashes resumed in eastern Ukraine, where Kievans and separatists have clashed since 2014.

Clashes continued in eastern Ukraine on Monday, with Kyiv reporting 15 shelling by pro-Russian militants that killed two Ukrainian soldiers and one civilian.

Meanwhile, the rebels have reported three civilians killed in shelling in the last 24 hours.

Russia assured Monday that at least 61,000 people have been “evacuated” from breakaway areas to its territory.

“This is a real war,” said Tatyana Nikulina, 64, one of those who was transported from the Donetsk region to the Russian city of Taganrog. “They couldn’t find a compromise, and that’s why this whole thing is happening.”

Faced with the threat of invasion, Ukraine called for the “immediate” convening of the UN Security Council.

Meanwhile, Mr. Putin again blamed Western countries for “using Ukraine” which “poses a serious threat, very big for us.”

The Russians defend themselves against any project to invade Ukraine, but demand guarantees that Kyiv will never join NATO and the Alliance’s withdrawal from Eastern Europe.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and members of the Security Council in Moscow on February 21, 2022.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and members of the Security Council in Moscow on February 21, 2022. (©Sputnik/AFP/Aleksey NIKOLSKY)

Source: © 2022 AFP

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