Putin comments on calls to recognize Donbass
Russian President Vladimir Putin has reiterated his support for diplomatic efforts to put an end to the conflict in the Donbass, despite calls from his country’s parliament for the Kremlin to consider recognizing two breakaway regions of Eastern Ukraine.
Speaking at a press conference alongside German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Moscow on Tuesday, Putin set out his views on the motion, backed by a majority of MPs earlier the same day, which urged him to consider affirming the sovereignty of the self-declared republics in Donetsk and Lugansk.
According to him, the motion showed that parliamentarians understand public sympathy toward those living in the war-torn Donbass region, comparing the treatment of residents there to “genocide.” However, he went on, “we have to do everything to solve the problems in the Donbass, but first and foremost that has to be through the as-yet unrealized opportunities to implement the Minsk agreements.”
The two treaties, signed by Ukraine and rebel leaders in 2014 and 2015, were designed to put an end to fierce fighting that broke out following the Maidan, which saw the country’s elected government ousted by violent street protests. The majority Russian-speaking Donetsk and Lugansk regions subsequently declared their autonomy from Kiev, which Ukrainian authorities and those in Moscow have never formally recognized. The terms of the deal include a ceasefire and a requirement for peace talks and internal reforms to reconcile the two sides; however, many of its provisions are yet to be implemented.
On Tuesday morning, the Russian parliament voted in favor of a motion addressed to Putin that called for Russia to announce its support for the independence of Donetsk and Lugansk, with 351 legislators backing the draft proposal and just 16 opposing. Following the vote on the resolution, Duma Chairman Vyacheslav Volodin said that the provision “will be signed immediately” and sent to President Putin for feedback.
Volodin said the day before that the recognition of the two regions “is an extremely important and high-stakes issue,” adding that “Washington is inflaming tensions and supplying weapons to Ukraine together with European countries, while Kiev continues to disregard the Minsk Accords.”
Following the vote, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba warned that Kiev would consider the vote to recognize the two self-proclaimed people’s republics as Moscow’s abandonment of a major peace plan that seeks to put an end to the conflict in the war-torn Donbass.
“If a decision is made… Russia will de facto and de jure withdraw from the Minsk agreements with all the accompanying consequences,” he warned.