Feb 15, 2022 - World

Russian parliament asks Putin to recognize breakaway Ukrainian regions

Russia's President Vladimir Putin during a meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Moscow on Feb. 15.
Russia's President Vladimir Putin during a meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Moscow on Feb. 15. Photo: Mikhail Klimentyev/TASS via Getty Images

Russia's lower house of parliament passed a resolution Tuesday asking President Putin to recognize the Russian-backed Ukrainian separatist regions of Donetsk and Luhansk as independent, Reuters reports.

Why it matters: The resolution, if adopted by the Kremlin, would be a major blow to measures known as the Minsk Accords that were adopted in 2014 and 2015 to stop fighting in eastern Ukraine and could deepen the standoff between Russia and the West over Moscow's military buildup near Ukraine.

The separatist quasi-states have been financially and militarily supported by Russia since their formation in 2014.

  • Putin recognizing them as independent could put them on a track to be illegally annexed by Russia, as was the case with Crimea in 2014 following Moscow's invasion of the peninsula.
  • The Minsk agreements in part guaranteed Donetsk and Luhansk more power over local governance while preserving Ukraine's territorial integrity.
  • While they have failed to stop fighting between Ukraine and Russian-back separatists in the breakaway oblasts, they have been the working peace process in the region for several years and are seen as the best framework for de-escalating the broader tensions between Moscow and Kyiv.
  • They are in principle supported by Russia, Ukraine, France, Germany and the U.S., though Putin recognizing the self-declared Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics could deal a blow to the accords.
  • The Kremlin has not yet publicly said whether a decision has been made on the resolution.

What they're saying: Vyacheslav Volodin, the speaker of Russia's lower house, accused Ukraine of not respecting the Minsk agreements Tuesday while at the same time advocating for Putin to recognize the regions.

  • "Kyiv is not observing the Minsk agreements. Our citizens and compatriots who live in Donbass need our help and support," Volodin, a member of the pro-Putin ruling United Russia party, said on social media, according to Reuters.
  • In a press conference with Germany's Chancellor Olaf Scholz Tuesday, Putin claimed that the treatment of Russian-speakers in Donbas amounts to "genocide," though he said "the Donbas issues" should be solved "in the framework of the Minsk agreements."
  • Ukraine's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Tuesday that Russian recognition of the regions "will be tantamount to [Russia's] deliberate withdrawal from the Minsk Agreements. Such a move will cause a blow to the politico-diplomatic settlement that Ukraine and its partners have been actively engaged to promote."

The big picture: The U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, which temporarily relocated its operations to Lviv in western Ukraine over fears of a Russian invasion, denounced the resolution Tuesday, calling it "yet another odious attempt to violate Ukraine’s sovereignty and a clear violation of the Minsk agreements, which commit signatories to reintegrate these regions."

  • NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also denounced it as a violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and the agreements.

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