Vladimir Putin has decided to recognize the self-proclaimed pro-Russian republics of Donbas, in eastern Ukraine: Donetsk and Lugansk. This has been communicated to the German Chancellor, Olaf Scholz, and to the French President, Emmanuel Macron, who intends to sign a decree to recognize the People’s Republic of Donetsk and Lugansk, reports the agency Tass citing a Kremlin note from Putin’s conversation with European leaders. Of course, recognition is not the same as annexation. Putin also has charged the Russian Defense Ministry with “peacekeeping” in the two republics, without being clear if this means that Russian troops are preparing to cross the Ukraine border now.
In his televised speech, Putin has reviewed the history of the 20th century to conclude that Ukraine is a kind of invented country, because of Lenin, Stalin and the USSR, which means that not only Ukraine, but also Belarus , Moldova and the Baltic states, members of NATO and the EU, may also be debatable.
“Ukraine is not just a neighboring country for us. It is an inseparable part of our shared history, our comrades and relatives. The situation in Donbas is critical,” said the Russian president, who has described Ukraine as a “puppet” of The West, which is “forcibly assimilating” Russian-speakers.
“I have made a decision that should have been made a long time ago, to recognize the independent republics of Donetsk and Lugansk,” Putin concluded.
“The United States and NATO have brazenly turned Ukraine into a theater of possible military action against Russia,” Putin said: “Ukraine’s armed forces may well be commanded directly from NATO headquarters. Ukraine’s nuclear threat it is real, it has become a colony with a puppet government. Foreign agents are being deployed along with the weapons that NATO provides to Ukraine. Ukraine’s airspace is being used by NATO for surveillance of Russia.”
The head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell, Borrell said after the meeting of the EU foreign ministers: “If there is an annexation, there will be sanctions. If there is recognition, I will put the sanctions on the table and the governments will decide” .
The President of the Spanish Government, Pedro Sánchez, has also condemned “the unilateral recognition by Russia of the separatist territories”.
The French president, Emmanuel Macron, has called an emergency security meeting and has spoken, in addition to Putin, with the Ukrainian president, Volodímir Zelenski; Scholz; the President of the European Council, Charles Michel; and European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen, with more calls planned for tonight, according to the Elysee. The German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, for his part, has also spoken with Zelenski, after the conversation with Putin in which he has “condemned Russia’s plans to recognize the so-called Donesk and Lugansk People’s Republics as independent states”.
Both the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, and that of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, have reacted: “The recognition of the two separatist territories in Ukraine is a flagrant violation of international law, the territorial integrity of Ukraine and the Minsk agreements. The EU and its partners will react with unity, firmness and determination in solidarity with Ukraine.”
In a statement released overnight, President von der Leyen and President Michel “condemn in the strongest terms the Russian president’s decision to proceed with the recognition of the non-government controlled areas of the Donetsk and Lugansk oblasts of Ukraine as independent entities. This step is a flagrant violation of international law as well as the Minsk agreements. The EU will react with sanctions against those involved in this illegal act. The EU reiterates its unwavering support for independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders”.
The Spanish Foreign Minister, José Manuel Albares, for his part, said after the meeting of EU ministers: “War is clearly avoidable. I want to be very clear and very firm about that. There is no inevitability of war. In fact, nobody in the European Union is preparing for a war. All we do is offer dialogue, détente.”
“I have listened to your opinions. The decision will be adopted today”, the head of the Kremlin had said at the end of an extended meeting of the Russian Security Council broadcast on television, something unprecedented: “We are going to decide our future steps taking into account also the request of the leaders of the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Luhansk for the recognition of their sovereignty and the request of the Russian Duma (Lower House) on the same issue”.
On this matter, the head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell, stated last week after the Duma vote that it would be a “flagrant violation of the Minsk agreements.” But then he did not talk about triggering EU sanctions.
In effect, it would break the Minsk agreements, with which Russia identified itself, and which established a status quo and a ceasefire in Donbas that, according to Russia, Ukraine systematically violates. In this sense, Russia has assured this Monday that it has killed five members of an alleged Ukrainian sabotage and reconnaissance group that would have entered Russian territory, something that Ukrainian official sources deny. “Five violators of the Russian border from a sabotage and reconnaissance group were eliminated in an armed confrontation,” said the Southern Military District, according to the Russian Interfax agency quoted by Efe.
Meanwhile, the EU foreign ministers have extended this Monday to five more people the sanctions for the organization of the September elections in Crimea, annexed by Russia in 2014.
The Elysee announced an “agreement in principle” for a new meeting between Biden and Putin. But the Kremlin has been quick on Monday to describe the announcement as “premature.” The hypothetical summit between the presidents of the USA and Russia to talk about Ukraine was communicated by the presidency after several diplomatic efforts made by Emmanuel Macron this Sunday. The US, for its part, did seem to have accepted the meeting, subject to the absence of a Russian attack on Ukraine.
Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitri Peskov, has said that Putin and Biden could meet if they consider it necessary, but has stressed, according to the Russian agency Tass, that “it is premature to talk about specific plans for a summit” and that there were no concrete plans , and spoke about the Donbas: “The situation is extremely tense and so far we do not see any signs of a decrease in the level of tension. The provocations and the bombings are getting more and more intense, of course, which is of very deep concern.”
France also ratified in its statement Friday’s announcement by Joe Biden about a meeting between the heads of US and Russian diplomacy, Anthony Blinken and Sergei Lavrov this coming Thursday “in Europe”. Russia has ended up confirming this appointment this Monday, but unlike the summit. And that high-level meeting between Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden may be something for Blinken and Lavrov to wrap up. In the background, the main Russian demands will continue to be present: a guarantee that NATO will stop its expansion to the East –Ukraine and Georgia– and take the missiles of NATO countries that were previously members of the Warsaw Pact.
In this sense, Putin has assured: “The American colleague [Biden] assured that Ukraine will not be accepted [en la OTAN] morning; moreover, some kind of moratorium is possible. According to Putin, “they [los aliados] they believe that Ukraine is not ready right now. That is why we believe that this (Ukraine’s non-incorporation into NATO) is not a concession to us”, but the Alliance’s own plan, “a moratorium for the allies themselves”, reports Efe.
“The president of the Republic [Emmanuel Macron] He has spoken with the President of the United States, Joe Biden, and the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin”, said the statement released by the Elysee: “He has proposed that a summit be held between President Biden and President Putin, and then with the relevant actors to discuss security and strategic stability in Europe. Presidents Biden and Putin have agreed in principle. The content must be prepared by the secretary [de Estado] Blinken and the minister [de Exteriores] Lavrov during their meeting on Thursday, February 24. It can only be held on the condition that Russia does not invade Ukraine. The President of the Republic will work with all interested parties to prepare the content of these discussions.”
“A summit?” Said the head of European diplomacy this Monday at the entrance to the Council of Foreign Ministers in Brussels: “Yes, as many diplomatic tools as one can imagine must be mobilized. Summits, meetings at the of ministers, at the level of leaders, whatever the format, whatever the way of talking and sitting at the table and trying to avoid war, we will support anything that can make diplomatic talks the best way, the only way. way to seek a solution to the crisis”.
In relation to the sanctions, Borrell has affirmed: “The work is done. We are ready”.
The mechanism for sanctions, insists the EU, consists of waiting for an attack to actually take place and, depending on what attack it is, making a decision by the 27 at the proposal of the High Representative for Cooperation and Development of the EU , Joseph Borrell.
Likewise, the Ukrainian Foreign Minister, Dmytro Kuleba, who is taking part in the meeting of the EU Foreign Ministers, announced at the entrance that he will request that sanctions against Russia be approved now: “We believe that there are good and legitimate reasons for impose at least some of the sanctions on Russia to show that the EU is not just talking about sanctions, but moving forward. We await decisions. There are many decisions that the EU can take now to send clear messages to Russia that its escalation is not will be tolerated and that Ukraine will not be left to its own devices.