Russian President Vladimir Putin has announced that Russia recognized the independence and sovereignty of Ukraine’s breakaway states in the eastern Donbas region on Monday, February 20th, at 10 pm local time, during an emotional address on Russia’s state-run television seemingly undeterred by threats made by President Biden and the West that this may lead to damaging economic sanctions.

The two eastern Ukraine separatist states, the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR), had been controlled by pro-Russian separatists since 2014 following the Russian annexation of Crimea. Ever since then, Putin has supported these breakaway states in an attempt to expand its territory further. By recognizing these ad-hoc republics as nations, Putin expects that regimes loyal to the Kremlin will invite Russian troops in to protect them from being reclaimed by Ukraine.

Putin had described these two breakaway states as vital portions of Russia’s history, stating that they had claims on the region as they belonged to Russia’s ancient lands. “I deem it necessary to make a decision that should have been made a long time ago, to immediately recognize the independence and sovereignty of the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic,” said the Russian President. Furthermore, he claimed that Ukraine was a mere United States colony, a puppet regime where neo-Nazis had flourished and corrupt oligarchic clans dominated the political landscape.

Putin went on to claim that Ukraine proper had always been a part of Russia and that its status as a country was a legal fiction invented by the USSR and therefore had no basis in international law.  This claim by Putin seems mindless of the contradiction of recognizing regions separated from Ukraine by force as of countries themselves when separated from Ukraine, a county Putin claims does not exist. More ominous is that Putin’s claims express the view that the territory of Ukraine and it’s very people belong to Russia, this allows Putin to cast Russia as the country which lost its territory.

The move to recognize the aforementioned states comes after Russia claimed Ukraine was attacking these pro-Russian separatist areas and accused Ukraine of planning a Blitzkrieg, which Ukraine has denied. Ukraine states that all its actions were done in self-defense. Western governments also handed false-flag attacks and other accusations of fakery to Russia. One was the alleged shelling of Ukraine of pro-Russian separatists and a supposed US-discovered plot by Russia to create a fake video of dead Russians killed by Ukrainian troops.

It also comes as another form of undermining of Ukraine’s sovereignty as it still considers Donetsk and Luhansk to be part of its territory and had claimed that it would return ‘peacefully’ during an impassioned speech at the Munich Security Conference.

“Russia says Ukraine seeks to join the Alliance to return Crimea by force. It is gratifying that the words “return Crimea” appear in their rhetoric. But they inattentively read Article 5 of the NATO Charter: collective action is for protection, not offensive. Crimea and the occupied regions of Donbas will certainly return to Ukraine, but only peacefully,” said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during the conference.

Putin asked the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation to support his decision and ratify the treaties of friendship and mutual assistance with both republics. He then called on Zelensky and the rest of the Ukrainian leadership to stop all military and combat activity in said regions. Otherwise, Putin warned that there will be continuing bloodshed and that their blood was on Ukraine’s hands. Putin has stated his intention to deploy Russian troops in the occupied territories to act as “peace-keepers.”

Almost immediately after the announcement, the United States, together with its oldest ally, the United Kingdom, as well as the European Council, stated that they would be imposing new economic sanctions as Putin’s recognition of the two breakaway states was deemed to be a breach of international law. The first sanctions imposed by the Biden Administrations were not imposed on Russia, but on Ukrainian companies located inside the occupied regions.

US President Joe Biden, together with France President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, had condemned the decision to recognize Donetsk and Luhansk as independent states and said that they would be coordinating their response in the coming days.

In another call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, he and Biden also strongly condemned Putin’s decision to recognize the breakaway states, stating “President Biden reiterated that the United States would respond swiftly and decisively, in lock-step with its Allies and partners, to further Russian aggression against Ukraine,” in a White House release. Zelensky is now scheduled to have a call with UK Prime Minister Borish Johnson and European Council President Charles Michel, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

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Biden Announced Sanctions On Companies In Ukraine, Not Russia

Furthermore, Press Secretary Jen Psaki also issued a statement stating that President Biden will soon issue an Executive Order that will prohibit trade, financing, and investments of US citizens to Donetsk and Luhansk and that these measures would be in addition and separate to those ‘swift’ and ‘severe’ economic measures they had been preparing with US allies.  These sanctions do not represent sanctions against Russia, but against the break away republics.

Along with these statements, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg had also released a statement condemning the recognition, stating that “This further undermines Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, erodes efforts towards a resolution of the conflict, and violates the Minsk Agreements, to which Russia is a party.” Furthermore, it urged Russia’ in the strongest possible terms to reverse its military build-up around Ukraine in accordance with international law.

Poland, Norway, Latvia, and Lithuania also expressed their dismay with the Kremlin’s decision to recognize the breakaway states as independent, describing the move as “a blatant violation of international law,” according to German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and “an act of aggression against Ukraine that must be met with unequivocal response & immediate sanctions,” said Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.

President Biden And US Intelligence Agencies Caught Flat-Footed

For the last several months, the Biden administration has claimed that Ukraine faced an imminent invasion by tens of thousands of Russian troops massing near its borders.  President Biden threatened repeatedly that an invasion of Ukraine by Russia would result in crushing sanctions against Russia.  The administration claimed that the invasion would occur for certain on February 16th, which passed without the predicted invasion taking place.  Instead, the Russian government and the Russian press mocked President Biden and its intelligence agencies over the failed prediction.

Rhetoric by the administrations then pivoted to the claim that the invasion of Ukraine was very likely in days or a week.  U.S. intelligence agencies were said to have knowledge that orders were given to Russian commanders to launch the invasion and troops were moving to their jump-off points but declined to present the hard evidence to support these claims.

It very much appears as if Putin’s latest move was totally missed by the administration and our intelligence agencies.

An Unforced Error By President Biden and the EU May Prevent Sanctions Against Russia

Threats to sanction Russia for invading Ukraine made by President Biden did not include Putin moving Russian troops into Donbas and Luhansk as these have been under de-facto Russian occupation since 2014.  This was not the invasion the Biden administration said was going to occur.  The President will have a difficult time now imposing the sanctions over terms he did not previously disclose would trigger them, as Putin and Russian media would waste no time in exploiting this as America acting punitively against Russia without warning.  Administration officials are already said to be taking sanctions off the table as Putin will be moving troops into a part of Ukraine they have previously invaded either outright or by their Russian Separatist proxies.

There is the additional problem in that differentiating between Russian troops in Donbas or Luhansk from sending them into what is left of Ukraine would seem to establish a status quo ante to Russia prying these two regions away from Ukraine as if they are now Russian territory.

This is a breaking and developing story. Please check back for more updates regarding the Ukrainian-Russian crisis.

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