Russian President Vladimir Putin told French and German leaders on Monday that he planned to sign a decree recognizing two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine as independent.
Here’s a look at the implications for the wider crisis, with the United States saying Russia stands ready to invade Ukraine with a force of up to 190,000 troops it has amassed near its neighbor’s borders.
WHAT ARE THE EXTENDED REGIONS?
Russian-backed separatists in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions — collectively known as the Donbass — broke away from Ukrainian government control in 2014 and declared themselves independent “people’s republics”, hitherto unrecognized. Since then, about 15,000 people have been killed in fighting, according to Ukraine. Russia denies being party to the conflict but has supported the separatists in several ways, including covert military aid, financial aid, delivery of COVID-19 vaccines and issuing at least 800,000 Russian passports to residents. Moscow has always denied its intention to invade Ukraine.
WHAT DOES RUSSIAN RECOGNITION MEAN?
For the first time, Russia says it does not consider the Donbass part of Ukraine. That could pave the way for Moscow to openly send military forces to the separatist regions, arguing that it is intervening as an ally to protect them from Ukraine. A Russian MP and former political leader of Donetsk, Alexander Borodai, last month told Reuters that the separatists would then look to Russia to help them take control of parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions still under Ukrainian control. troops standing. If that happens, it could lead to an open military conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
WHAT ABOUT THE MINSK PEACE PROCESS?
Russian recognition effectively kills the Minsk peace accords of 2014-15 which, while not yet implemented, have so far been seen by all sides, including Moscow, as the best chance for a solution. The agreements call for a high degree of autonomy for the two regions of Ukraine.
HOW WILL THE WEST RESPOND?
Western governments have been queuing for months to warn Moscow that any movement of armed forces across the Ukrainian border would elicit a strong response, including severe financial sanctions.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said last week that recognition would “further undermine Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, constitute a gross violation of international law (and) Russia’s stated commitment to continue diplomacy in order to to come to a peaceful solution, would further question this crisis”.
He said it would require a “quick and determined” response from the United States and its allies.
HAS RUSSIA PRE-RECOGNITED STATELLETS?
Yes – it recognized the independence of Georgia’s two breakaway regions, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, after a brief war with Georgia in 2008. It has provided them with extensive budget support, extended Russian citizenship to their populations and stationed thousands of troops there.
WHAT ARE THE PROS AND CONS FOR MOSCOW?
In the case of Georgia, Russia used the recognition of the breakaway regions to justify an open-ended military presence in a neighboring former Soviet republic in an effort to indefinitely thwart Georgia’s NATO aspirations by taking full control of it. to deny its own territory. The same considerations would apply to Ukraine.
On the other hand, Moscow faces sanctions and international condemnation for abandoning the Minsk trial after long insisting it committed itself to it. It will also be saddled indefinitely with responsibility for two areas devastated by eight years of war and in need of massive economic support.
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