Donbass republics call on Putin to recognize their independence
The leaders of Ukraine’s two self-declared breakaway republics have appealed to Russian President Vladimir Putin, requesting that Moscow recognize the separatist regions as independent states.
Speaking in an address on Monday, the head of the self-declared Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR), Leonid Pasechnik, appealed to Putin, insisting that Moscow’s affirmation of their sovereignty will help avoid mass deaths of local residents, of which 300,000 are said to be ethnic Russians.
Pasechnik said that "I ask you to recognize the sovereignty and independence of the Lugansk People's Republic. I also ask you to consider the possibility of concluding a friendship and cooperation agreement between the LPR and the Russian Federation, including cooperation in defense," he said Monday on the Russia-24 television channel.
At the same time, in a simultaneous appeal, the leader of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), Denis Pushilin similarly called on the Russian president to recognize his region’s independence. Both declared their autonomy from Kiev in the wake of the 2014 Maidan, which saw Ukraine's government toppled in the wake of violent unrest.
According to Pushilin, the Russian leader’s “political decisions, such as the recognition of documents issued to residents of our republics and the possibility to become Russian citizens, are invaluable for us.”
"On behalf of all the people of the Donetsk People's Republic we ask you to recognize the Donetsk People's Republic as an independent, democratic, legal, social state," he went on.
The demands come as forces loyal to the breakaway regions and Kiev’s forces accuse each other of heavy shelling across the contact line. US President Joe Biden expressed concern last week that the uptick in fighting could be the beginning of a “false flag” operation, giving Moscow an “excuse to go in” and invade its neighbor. The Kremlin, however, has consistently denied it has any plans to launch an offensive and Putin has called for a diplomatic solution to the crisis.
On Friday, rebel leaders announced that they had begun evacuating civilians to Russia, amid what they claim is a the sharp spike in hostilities, and ordered the mobilization of all able-bodied men to be ready to fight in a potential conflict.
However, a number of media outlets have since reported that the metadata on two videos from the regional heads, in which they caution of a recent escalation in tensions, suggested that they may have been pre-recorded two days prior.
Last week, the Russian parliament voted overwhelmingly in favor of a motion calling for the president to recognize the independence of the two territories. Putin later described events unfolding in the Donbass, home to a large ethnic Russian population, as a “genocide.”
However, he insisted that “we have to do everything to resolve the problem of Donbass, but do it first and foremost based on the possibility of implementing the Minsk agreements,” referring to the peace plan designed to put an end to the fighting in the region. The UN estimates that over 13,000 civilians have lost their lives in the conflict to date.