Putin says backs separatists’ claim to Donbas region of Ukraine | Ukraine-Russia crisis News

President Vladimir Putin said Russia has recognized the territorial claims of the self-declared separatist republics in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, in a move that could significantly increase the risk of a war between the two countries.

Speaking on Tuesday after the upper house of the Russian parliament approved Putin’s request to deploy military forces to the two separatist-held regionsPutin said Moscow had recognized the independence of Ukraine’s separatist regions within their administrative borders, including territory controlled by Kyiv.

“Well, we recognized them. And this means that we recognized all their fundamental documents, including the constitution, ”Putin told reporters. “And the constitution spells out the borders within the Donetsk and Luhansk regions at the time when they were part of Ukraine.”

The move comes after Moscow recognized the independence of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics (DPR and LPR, respectively) on Monday, triggering international condemnation and sanctions.

Al Jazeera’s Charles Stratford said Putin’s recognition of the pro-Russian separatists’ territorial claim to the wider Donbas region is based on their 2014 constitution.

“The 2014 constitution takes in a vastly larger area of ​​land than the separatists currently control,” he added.

Green light to deploy forces

The unanimous approval by Russia’s upper house, the Federation Council, allows Putin to deploy “peacekeepers” to the breakaway regions and potentially into other parts of Ukraine.

The decision would take immediate effect, senior legislator Andrei Klishas told the chamber.

“By approving the use of armed forces abroad, we assume they will be peacekeeping forces – forces designed to maintain peace and stability in the [self-proclaimed east Ukrainian] republics, ”Valentina Matvienko, the upper house’s speaker, said before the vote.

Russian servicemen and armored vehicles stand on the road in Rostov region, Russia, February 22, 2022 [Yuri Kochetkov/EPA]

As legislators met to discuss the idea, the Kremlin announced Putin had ratified friendship treaties with two Moscow-backed Ukrainian breakaway republics.

Russia has said that step allows it to build military bases there, deploy troops, agree upon a joint defense posture and tighten economic integration.

The move came amid a crisis about a huge Russian military buildup near Ukraine that has fuelled fears of an invasionwhich Moscow has denied planning.

New sanctions

The vote in Russia’s upper house came in the face of a wave of new sanctions announced by the United States, United Kingdom and European Union, after Putin recognized the self-declared Donetsk and Luhansk rebel republics – including an announcement that Germany was halting certification of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia.

Putin’s plans remained unclear, but Western officials have been warning for weeks he has been preparing for an all-out invasion of Ukraine, a move that would prompt a catastrophic war in Europe.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance had “every indication” that Moscow “continues to plan for a full-scale attack on Ukraine”.

Kyiv showed no sign of backing down to Moscow, with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba in Washington calling on the EU to promise his country membership and for the West to supply it with more weapons.

“Our best guarantees will be our diplomacy and arms. We will mobilize the whole world to get everything we need to strengthen our defenses, ”Kuleba said.

Kyiv recalled its top diplomat from Moscow as President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned Putin’s recognition of the breakaway regions heralded “further military aggression” against Ukraine.

Kuleba had earlier called on Kyiv’s Western allies to impose “tough sanctions” over Russia’s actions and many were moving quickly.

Three conditions

Speaking to journalists shortly after the vote in Russia’s upper house, Putin said the Minsk peace agreements on Ukraine’s conflict no longer existed.

He left the door open to a solution, saying the deployment of Russian troops would “depend on the specific situation… on the ground” and appearing to offer Ukraine a way out by giving up on its hopes to join the US-led NATO military alliance .

“The best solution… would be if the current Kyiv authorities themselves refused to join NATO and maintained neutrality,” Putin said.

He also urged Kyiv to recognize Russia’s sovereignty over Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula that Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

The West has decried the annexation of Crimea as a violation of international law and has previously flatly rejected permanently barring Ukraine from NATO.

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