Vladimir Putin recognises Ukraine rebel regions as independent, sends Russian troops

New Delhi: In what could accelerate the ongoing crisis, Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday (local time) recognised two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine as independent and ordered the Russian army to launch what Moscow called a peacekeeping operation into the area.

Putin, who was joined by Russia-backed separatist leaders, signed a decree recognising the independence of the two Ukrainian breakaway regions — the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic and the Lugansk People’s Republic – along with agreements on cooperation and friendship.

In a lengthy televised address, Putin described Ukraine as an integral part of Russia’s history and said eastern Ukraine was ancient Russian land. 

Putin also said that he was confident that the Russian people would support his decision.

The Russian President also delved into history as far back as the Ottoman empire and as recent as the tensions over NATO’s eastward expansion – a major irritant for Moscow in the present crisis.

“I deem it necessary to make a decision that should have been made a long time ago – to immediately recognise the independence and sovereignty of the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Lugansk People’s Republic,” he said.

With his decision, Putin also brushed off Western warnings that such a step would be illegal, kill off peace negotiations and trigger sanctions.

There was no word on the size of the force the Russian President was dispatching, but the decree said Russia now had the right to build military bases in Donetsk and Lugansk.

Meanwhile, the UN Security Council is scheduled to meet shortly following a request by the United States, the United Kingdom and France.

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It is noteworthy that the US says that Russia has massed over 1,50,000 troops in the region, including the separatists in the breakaway regions, and could invade within days.

Moscow, however, denies any plan to attack its neighbour, but has threatened unspecified “military-technical” action unless it receives sweeping security guarantees, including a promise that Ukraine will never join NATO.

(With agency inputs)

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