You are currently viewing Putin blows up bridges with the West and sends troops to pro-Russian ‘republics’ in Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin finally has moved the military token in the crisis with Ukraine. The president has ordered the sending of troops to the east of the neighboring country just a few hours after recognizing the independence of the self-proclaimed people’s republics of Donetsk and Lugansk in a harsh televised speech with which he has justified his decision. Although Moscow assures that the objective of the operation is “to maintain peace”, its incursion into the pro-Russian territories not recognized by the international community supposes a “de facto” invasion. It is not yet clear if the mobilization will be limited to the areas controlled by the rebels or if will seek to claim the rest of the Donbas region. Some even fear that this is the start of the full-scale war that US intelligence has warned so much about.

“I have deemed it necessary to make a decision that should have been made long ago and immediately recognize the independence and sovereignty of the people’s republics of Donetsk and Lugansk,” Putin said in the last moments of a monologue lasting almost an hour. Immediately afterwards, state television broadcast some images in which the Russian president can be seen together with the leaders of Donetsk, Denis Pushilin, and Lugansk, Leonid Pásechnik, at the time of the signing of the decree that recognizes the independence of those regions.After stamping his signature, Putin has also signed new treaties of friendship and mutual assistance with the leaders of both territories , which have allowed immediate dispatch of troops. The first images of Russian tanks moving towards Donetsk are already circulating on social networks.

The EU warns Russia: it will apply sanctions for the recognition of Donetsk and Lugansk

Nacho Alarcon

The condemnations of the West have been happening. The European Union, the United States and the UN itself have criticized Russia’s unilateral move over a territory that the international community considers to be Ukrainian. Ukraine itself maintains that the Donetsk and Lugansk regions, including the areas controlled by the pro-Russians, are part of its territory, as Oleksii Danilov, secretary of the Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council, has assured. France has requested a urgent call of the United Nations Security Council to discuss “the attack on the sovereignty of Ukraine” —in the words of President Emmanuel Macron—, while the Pole Mateusz Morawiecki called for an emergency meeting of the European Council to agree on a unified response from the EU.

“The Union will react with sanctions against those involved in this illegal act,” warned the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and the President of the Council, Charles Michel, in a joint statement. At 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday, the permanent ambassadors to the EU to start working on the sanctions.In addition, the head of European diplomacy, the Spanish Josep Borrell, has seconded the French and Ukrainian request for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council after describing the shipment of Russian troops like “an aggression against Ukraine and a violation of its territorial integrity and its sovereignty.

Putin’s worldview

The Kremlin’s recognition of the independence of Donetsk and Lugansk and the sending of the Russian Army to Donbas represent the final blow to the Minsk Agreements, signed in 2014 and 2015 between pro-Russian rebels and Kiev as a negotiating framework to end hostilities. The pact, which had the approval of Moscow and the participation of Germany, France and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), contemplated a ceasefire in the area, which has been permanently violated, and a roadmap on the autonomy of Donbas, which has been subject to divergent interpretations by Russia and Ukraine from your signature.

“The recognition of the two separatist territories in Ukraine is a flagrant violation of international lawof the territorial integrity of Ukraine and of the Minsk Agreements”, the main leaders of the European institutions have tweeted in unison.

In the last few days, it had increased the number of armistice violations recorded by the OSCE, which reported more than 3,000 between Saturday and Sunday afternoons, including more than 2,000 explosions. On Friday, a car bomb in the center of Donetsk unleashed fears of a ‘false flag’ operation in Donbas that would serve as a pretext for Russia to invade, as the US had warned could happen. Putin had denounced an increase in military pressure from Kiev in the area and it was feared that he would prepare a justification to intervene militarily, while from Ukraine they assured that the order had been given to not responding to Russian provocations. But finally, a ‘casus belli’ has not been necessary for Russia to send its armed forces beyond the Ukrainian border, where it keeps more than 130,000 troops stationed, according to US estimates, which it could mobilize in the event of a total invasion.

Photo: Putin at a recent Defense Ministry meeting.  (Reuters/Pool/Sputnik)
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A. Poplars. Kyiv E. Andres Pretel. Madrid N. Alarcon. Brussels

The increase in military pressure on Ukraine draws a big question mark about the possibilities of a diplomatic solution to the border crisis. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has condemned Putin’s move and stated that he “erodes efforts towards a resolution of the conflict”; while the possibility of a personal meeting between Putin and the president of the United States, Joe Biden, which had emerged over the weekend, is now in limbo. Biden has telephoned his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky, and has announced economic sanctions against the pro-Russian leaders of Donetsk and Lugansk.

Until now, Russia has denied being part of a conflict that has left more than 15,000 dead in the last eight years, according to the data handled by Kiev. With his announcement, Putin assumes for the first time in public that he does not recognize Donbas as the legitimate territory of Ukraine and, by recognizing the pro-Russian ‘republics’, justifies sending soldiers and war material as a protection movement to a allied country. “If the invasion is limited to consolidating the reality of Donbas, which was already de facto in the hands of the pro-Russians, The West will not respond with forceI don’t see a military reaction,” says Frédéric Mertens de Wilmars, a professor of international relations at the European University. The key is whether Russian troops will arrive to maintain the status quo or help the rebels conquer the rest of the province. This last option would increase the chances of an all-out conflict between Russia and Ukraine, as well as forcing the West to consider a higher-caliber response.

Photo: Kyiv Center.  (Ukraine)
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Argentinian Clay

Russia has already executed similar strategies to regain influence over former Soviet territories. In 2008, after recognizing the independence of the provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Georgia, which border Russia, Putin also sent troops on ‘peace mission’. Today, these territories depend on the Kremlin. The president of Georgia, Salomé Zurabishvili, has condemned the recognition of the independence of the self-proclaimed pro-Russian republics in Ukraine and warned that history is repeating itself. “It’s the same script that led to the occupation of 20% of the territory of Georgia“, has warned.

Feelings are pessimistic. In his speech on Monday, Putin has not limited himself to Ukraine. For an hour, the president has expanded on his geopolitical worldview of Europe and has not hesitated to express his desire to restore the old borders of the Soviet Union and the Russian Empire.

“Modern Ukraine was created entirely by Russia, more specifically, by Bolshevik and communist Russia. This process began immediately after the 1917 revolution”, Putin started his speech, full of historical demands —”Ukraine is an inherent part of our history and our cultural space”— and threats to its independence —”It has never had a tradition of authentic State”. In the background, his complete rejection of the European security architecture designed after the end of the Cold War: “Russia has every right to take response measures to guarantee its own security. That is exactly what we will do.”

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