The Russian leader addressed his nation earlier today, saying he recognized the independence of Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts. Putin called the oblasts (territories) by the names given to them by Russian-armed separatists: the Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic.
Putin’s announcement is a significant escalation and effectively demolishes the never fully implemented Minsk Agreement.
“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,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki wrote.
Russian leader Vladimir Putin has told French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz that he will recognize two regions of eastern Ukraine, partially occupied by Russian-backed separatists, as independent.
The Kremlin says Putin plans to address the Russian people tonight.
According to the U.S. and its allies, Moscow could use the declaration as an excuse to launch a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
For weeks, the West has fear that tensions between the Dnieper and Don rivers could spark the biggest conflict in Europe since 1945.
The New York Times has more on the pushback Putin received in his phone calls with Macron and Scholz, and why he’s pressing ahead anyway.
“The president of Russia said that he intended to sign the relevant decree in the near future,” the Kremlin said. “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.”
The news also dimmed hopes of a last-minute Biden-Putin summit.
The regions Putin plans to recognize, Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, are home to roughly 15% of Ukraine’s population.
Mr. Putin is recognizing the territories’ independence, the Kremlin said, in the face of “the military aggression of the Ukrainian authorities,” as a result of which “the civilian population is suffering.”
Ukraine denies having any plans to launch a military offensive against the separatist regions and says Russia is staging acts of Ukrainian aggression to justify an incursion.
His phone calls with the German and French leaders came after an extraordinary session of the Russian Security Council at which Mr. Putin accused the United States and its allies of using Ukraine “as an instrument of confrontation” with Russia. He said it posed “a serious, very big threat to us.”
For weeks, satellite images and social media users have documented an enormous Russian troop buildup on Ukraine’s northern, eastern and southern borders.