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Russian President Vladimir Putin recognised the independence of two separatist regions in eastern Ukraine - Donetsk People's Republic [DPR] and the Lugansk People's Republic [LPR]
"I believe it is necessary to take a long overdue decision, to immediately recognise the independence and sovereignty of the Donetsk People's Republic and the Lugansk People's Republic," he said, before state television showed Putin signing mutual aid agreements with leaders in the Kremlin.
The move parallels Russian recognition of self-proclaimed republics of South Ossetia in 1991 and Abkhazia in 2008 which are rebel provinces of Georgia and considered to be part of the Georgian state by many including India.
Russian recognition of DPR and LPR located in the Donbass region is likely to assume a similar status despite some heavy resistance seen in the UN Security Council on February 21.
Russia’s UN Ambassador, Vasily Nebenzya informed the Member States that in accordance with agreements “signed today by Luhansk and Donetsk People's Republics…the functions of maintaining peace in their territories will be carried out by the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, ” and appealed to avoid war.
UN political and peacebuilding chief Rosemary A. DiCarlo who opened an emergency Security Council meeting on the “unfolding dangerous situation in and around Ukraine,” said that Russia’s decision to recognize the independence of certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions “in violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty” risk having regional and global repercussions.
“We also regret the order today to deploy Russian troops into Eastern Ukraine, reportedly on a ‘peacekeeping mission’”, she added, recalling that the developments followed the decision to order “a mass evacuation of civilian residents of Donetsk and Luhansk into the Russian Federation”.
In the run up to these developments escalation has been evident as the OSCE’s Special Monitoring Mission counted 3,231 ceasefire violations in the Donbas area from 18-20 February: 1,073 ceasefire violations, including 926 explosions in the Luhansk region, and 2,158 ceasefire violations, including 1,100 explosions, in Donetsk region as per the UN Political and Peacebuilding chief.
US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield stated that this was a pretext to further invade Ukraine, the consequences of which would be felt “far beyond Ukraine’s borders”. Ms. Thomas-Greenfield said that the US would take further measures to hold Russia accountable for this “clear violation of international law”, stressing that the response will be “swift and severe” should Russia further invade Ukraine.
As per Washington Post, President Biden signed an executive order on February 21 blocking trade and investment by Americans in two separatist enclaves of Ukraine after Moscow recognized the breakaway regions’ independence and announced that it was sending military forces to the area for “peacekeeping” purposes.
The United States is considering wider sanctions on Russia which would be undertaken in tandem with the European and other partners. Economic and energy sanctions are expected to kick in which will impact Moscow.
Russia on the other hand indicated that Moscow was prepared for such a scenario and sought to hold talks at the Foreign Minister level as early as on February 24.
China and India as expected adopted neutral positions, calling for restraint on both sides.
The recognition of DPR and LPR as independent republics which made a request to Moscow for formal assistance in the backdrop of intensified shelling and preparatory measures which cannot be presently, ascribed to any side based on open source information may legally provide Russia the justifications for the action.
Nevertheless Russia and some of its close partners may be the only states which may recognize these entities just as it is in the case of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
On the other hand, if Russian President Vladimir Putin assesses that a strong signal has been send to the US and Europe that Moscow will not hesitate to go to war over guarantees for eastward expansion of NATO, then there may not be further incursions and the threat of war could be seen to be receding.
This will be the end game.
However, if President Putin assesses that the West is not guaranteeing Russians demands, then he may exercise the war option, which will obviously bear very heavy costs on all sides including on Moscow.