On Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree to formally recognize the independence of the two breakaway republics in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region, known as the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics.
The decree reads: “I deem it necessary to make a decision that should have been made a long time ago to immediately recognize the Donetsk (DPR) and Lugansk (LPR) People’s Republics.”
Earlier, the Kremlin said Putin informed the leaders of Germany and France of his plans. “The Russian president said that he plans to sign a corresponding decree in the near future,” the Kremlin said.
According to the Kremlin, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron “expressed disappointment” over the plan but also “expressed their readiness to continue contacts.”
The DPR and LPR separatists don’t control all the territory they claim in the Donbas and have been asking Russia for military assistance. It’s not clear at this point if the recognition means Russia is going to intervene.
The recognition of the DPR and LPR means Russia’s withdrawal from the Minsk agreements, which were signed in 2014 and 2015 to establish the ceasefire in eastern Ukraine. The Minsk accords were signed in talks brokered by France and Germany.
Under the Minsk agreements, Ukraine agreed to cede some autonomy to the DPR and LPR. Russia has grown increasingly frustrated over the fact that Kyiv hasn’t fulfilled its end of the agreement.
Earlier in the day, Putin convened a meeting of Russia’s Security Council, where top officials argued in favor of the recognition, including Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Earlier this month, Russia’s State Duma passed a resolution asking Putin to recognize the DPR and LPR.
DPR and LPR officials made a renewed request for recognition amid a spike of violence in eastern Ukraine. On February 19th, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) recorded 591 ceasefire violations in the Donetsk region and 975 ceasefire violations in the Luhansk region.
The DPR and LPR first declared independence from Kyiv after the US-backed coup in 2014. Not long after the coup, the separatists asked to join the Russian Federation, but Putin said no.