Russia Recognizes Ukraine Breakaway Republics; Western Leaders Levy Sanctions

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Russian President Vladimir Putin arrives for the first day of the G20 economic summit on July 7, 2017 in Hamburg, Germany. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

February 22, 2022

Russian leader Vladimir Putin met with the Russian Federation Security Council to formally recognize the breakaway republics of Donbas, Luhansk and Donetsk, in Eastern Ukraine Monday, Feb. 21. 

At the meeting, Putin greeted security officials, then proceeded with his brief background of the 2014 era Ukraine conflict. 

“So, after the 2014 coup in Ukraine, part of the population did not accept the outcome,” Putin told Russian Federation security officials. “Let me remind you that this was an anti-constitutional, blood-shedding coup that killed many innocent people. It was truly an armed coup. Nobody can argue that,” Putin said, as quoted by the English language version of the Kremlin public relations website. 

“Some of the country’s citizens did not accept the coup. They were residents of Crimea and people who currently live in Donbas. Those people declared they were establishing two independent republics, the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Lugansk People’s Republic. This was the point when the confrontation started between the Kyiv officials and the people living on that territory.” Putin added.  

Putin then went on to state that over the last eight years there have been “constant shelling and blockades” in Eastern Ukraine. He claimed that the Kyiv authorities have failed to implement the peace plan that was drafted during negotiations in Minsk, Belarus. Putin said that tensions in Ukraine motivated Russia’s continued cooperation with Washington and NATO to de-escalate tensions and reach a diplomatic solution. 

He then stated his concerns that, should Ukraine join the NATO alliance, the “threat against (Russia) will increase, due to the terms of the alliance’s Article 5, which ensures that if one country of the alliance is attacked, all the members will defend it.” 

“Since nobody recognizes the will expressed by the people of Crimea and Sevastopol, and Ukraine continues to insist that it is Ukrainian territory, there is a real threat that they will try to take back the territory they believe is theirs using military force,” said Putin. 

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov then addressed the council, reviewing security proposals Russia had made to the United States and NATO last December. 

“We received their response in late January. The assessment of this response shows that our Western colleagues are not prepared to take up our major proposals, primarily those on NATO’s eastward non-expansion,” said Lavrov.

The Kremlin released a public statement that Putin signed documents of recognition for the Lugansk and Donetsk republics on Monday. Subsequent Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation and Mutual Assistance documents were signed. 

As Putin proceeded to recognize the breakaway republics of Donetsk and Lugansk, video footage streamed to Twitter of civilians in Donetsk celebrating. They waved flags and shot fireworks in Donetsk. There were also photographs featuring banner decorations raised in Luhansk. 

“The city of Gorlovka is coming under very heavy artillery fire from the Armed Forces of Ukraine,” claimed O’Brien, in a Tweet written on Feb. 22. Earlier that day, O’Brien cited local press, who produced a video claiming that shelling had occurred on Tuesday which resulted in three civilian deaths. 

A video of the celebrations was shared by freelance news photographer and commentator Dean O’Brien, who was previously stationed in the Donbas region. O’Brien claims that Donbas is under heavy artillery fire from Ukraine forces. O’Brien cited local press sources who filmed an alleged attack by Ukrainian artillery fire that they claim resulted in three civilian deaths. O’Brien plans to return to the scene this year, to “report on the most vulnerable people affected by this-the innocent civilians.”

Putin is reportedly honoring a request from the two regions to offer Russian military support against Ukraine.

Meanwhile, media reports stated that the United States and NATO forces were deliberating whether the Kremlin’s recognition of the republics and the move of Russian forces into the Donbas territory constituted invasion. One report quotes President Biden as saying that the Russian forces’ incursion into Ukraine is “the beginning of an invasion.”

U.S. President Biden has planned sanctions against the breakaway republics of Donetsk and Luhansk. He was scheduled to make a public announcement on Tuesday.

“We have anticipated a move like this from Russia and are ready to respond immediately. President 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,” said White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Monday, Feb. 21.

Western powers are levying sanctions against Russia and the breakaway republics in correspondence with sanctions from the United States, according to reports. The Wall Street Journal states that Germany has halted its Gazprom II project with Russia over the recent Ukraine developments. Western economies continue to reportedly brace for market disruptions as the situation in Ukraine escalates. 

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