Ukrain crisis: As situation in Donbass reaches a critical stage, Russia recognises Donetsk and Lugansk

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Moscow: The President of Russia Vladimir Putin on Monday 21 February 2022 signed the Executive Order On the Recognition of the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Executive Order On the Recognition of the Lugansk People’s Republic.

Putin and Head of the DPR Denis Pushilin signed a Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance between the Russian Federation and the Donetsk People’s Republic.

The President of Russia and Head of the LPR Leonid Pasechnik signed a Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance between the Russian Federation and the Lugansk People’s Republic.

Following the signing ceremony, Vladimir Putin had a conversation with Denis Pushilin and Leonid Pasechnik.

President of Russia Vladimir Putin, in a televised address on Monday, expressed concerns over the events in Ukraine and why this is so important for Russia.

Putin said: “Of course, my message is also addressed to our compatriots in Ukraine. The matter is very serious and needs to be discussed in depth.”

we present below the transcript (English translation of the address in Russian):

The situation in Donbass has reached a critical, acute stage. I am speaking to you directly today not only to explain what is happening but also to inform you of the decisions being made as well as potential further steps.

I would like to emphasise again that Ukraine is not just a neighbouring country for us. It is an inalienable part of our own history, culture and spiritual space. These are our comrades, those dearest to us – not only colleagues, friends and people who once served together, but also relatives, people bound by blood, by family ties.

Since time immemorial, the people living in the south-west of what has historically been Russian land have called themselves Russians and Orthodox Christians. This was the case before the 17th century, when a portion of this territory rejoined the Russian state, and after.

It seems to us that, generally speaking, we all know these facts, that this is common knowledge. Still, it is necessary to say at least a few words about the history of this issue in order to understand what is happening today, to explain the motives behind Russia’s actions and what we aim to achieve.

So, I will start with the fact that modern Ukraine was entirely created by Russia or, to be more precise, by Bolshevik, Communist Russia. This process started practically right after the 1917 revolution, and Lenin and his associates did it in a way that was extremely harsh on Russia – by separating, severing what is historically Russian land. Nobody asked the millions of people living there what they thought.

Then, both before and after the Great Patriotic War, Stalin incorporated in the USSR and transferred to Ukraine some lands that previously belonged to Poland, Romania and Hungary. In the process, he gave Poland part of what was traditionally German land as compensation, and in 1954, Khrushchev took Crimea away from Russia for some reason and also gave it to Ukraine. In effect, this is how the territory of modern Ukraine was formed.

But now I would like to focus attention on the initial period of the USSR’s formation. I believe this is extremely important for us. I will have to approach it from a distance, so to speak.

I will remind you that after the 1917 October Revolution and the subsequent Civil War, the Bolsheviks set about creating a new statehood. They had rather serious disagreements among themselves on this point. In 1922, Stalin occupied the positions of both the General Secretary of the Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks) and the People’s Commissar for Ethnic Affairs. He suggested building the country on the principles of autonomisation that is, giving the republics – the future administrative and territorial entities – broad powers upon joining a unified state.

Lenin criticised this plan and suggested making concessions to the nationalists, whom he called “independents” at that time. Lenin’s ideas of what amounted in essence to a confederative state arrangement and a slogan about the right of nations to self-determination, up to secession, were laid in the foundation of Soviet statehood. Initially they were confirmed in the Declaration on the Formation of the USSR in 1922, and later on, after Lenin’s death, were enshrined in the 1924 Soviet Constitution.

This immediately raises many questions. The first is really the main one: why was it necessary to appease the nationalists, to satisfy the ceaselessly growing nationalist ambitions on the outskirts of the former empire? What was the point of transferring to the newly, often arbitrarily formed administrative units – the union republics – vast territories that had nothing to do with them? Let me repeat that these territories were transferred along with the population of what was historically Russia.

Moreover, these administrative units were de facto given the status and form of national state entities. That raises another question: why was it necessary to make such generous gifts, beyond the wildest dreams of the most zealous nationalists and, on top of all that, give the republics the right to secede from the unified state without any conditions?

On Monday, Putin also held a meeting of the Russian Federation Security Council at the Kremlin

Vladimir Putin at the Security Council meeting.

Putin’s address at the Russian Federation Security Council:

We are meeting today to discuss the current developments in Donbass.

I will briefly remind you how it all started and how the situation has developed even though you know this very well. But we need general background to help us make appropriate decisions.

So, after the 2014 coup in Ukraine, part of the population did not accept the outcome. Let me remind you that this was an anti-constitutional, blood-shedding coup that killed many innocent people. It was truly an armed coup. Nobody can argue that.

Some of the country’s citizens did not accept the coup. They were residents of Crimea and the people who currently live in Donbass.

Those people declared that they were establishing two independent republics, the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Lugansk People’s Republic. This was the point when the confrontation started between the Kiev officials and the people living on that territory.

In this context, I would like to point out that Russia initially did everything it could to make sure these disagreements could be resolved by peaceful means. However, the Kiev officials have conducted two punitive operations on those territories and, apparently, we are witnessing a third escalation.

All these years – I want to stress this – all these years, the people living on those territories have been literally tortured by constant shelling and blockades. As you know, the people living on those territories, close to the front line, so to speak, were in fact forced to seek shelter in their basements – where they now live with their children.

A peace plan was drafted during the negotiating process called the Minsk Package of Measures because, as you recall, we met in the city of Minsk. But subsequent developments show that the Kiev authorities are not planning to implement it, and they have publicly said so many times at the top state level and at the level of Foreign Minister and Security Council Secretary. Overall, everyone understands that they are not planning to do anything with regard to this Minsk Package of Measures.

Nevertheless, Russia has exerted efforts and still continues to make efforts to resolve all the complicated aspects and tragic developments by peaceful means, but we have what we have.

Our goal, the goal of today’s meeting is to listen to our colleagues and to outline future steps in this direction, considering the appeals by the leaders of the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Lugansk People’s Republic on recognising their sovereignty, as well as a resolution by the State Duma of the Russian Federation on the same subject. The latter document urges the President to recognise the independence and sovereignty of the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Lugansk People’s Republic.

At the same time, I would like to note that these different matters are, nevertheless, closely linked with matters of maintaining international security, on the European continent in particular, because the use of Ukraine as a tool for confronting this country, Russia, of course, presents a major and serious threat to us.

This is why we have intensified our work with our main partners in Washington and NATO over the past few months and in late 2021, so as to reach an eventual agreement on these security measures and to ensure the country’s calm and successful development under peaceful conditions. We see this as our number one objective and a top priority; instead of confrontation, we need to maintain security and ensure conditions for our development.

But we must, of course, understand the reality we live in. And, as I have said many times before, if Russia faces the threat of Ukraine being accepted into the North Atlantic Alliance, NATO, the threat against our country will increase because of Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty that clearly states that all countries in the alliance must fight on the side of their co-member in the event of an aggression against it. But since nobody recognises the will expressed by the people of Crimea and Sevastopol, and Ukraine continues to insist that it is Ukrainian territory, there is a real threat that they will try to take back the territory they believe is theirs using military force. And they do say this in their documents, obviously. Then the entire North Atlantic Alliance will have to get involved.

As you know, we have been told that some NATO countries are against Ukraine becoming a member. However, despite their objections, in 2008, they signed a memorandum in Bucharest that opened the doors for Ukraine and Georgia to join NATO. I have not received an answer to my question as to why they did that. But if they took one step under pressure from the United States, who can guarantee that they will not take another step under pressure? There is no guarantee.

There are no guarantees whatsoever because the United States is known to easily discard any agreements and documents it signs. Still, at least something must be put on paper and formulated as an international legal act. At this point, we cannot even agree on this one thing.

Therefore, I would like to suggest that we proceed as follows: first, I will give the floor to Mr Lavrov who is directly involved in the attempts to reach an agreement with Washington and Brussels, and with NATO, on security guarantees. Then I would like Mr Kozak to report on his findings concerning the talks on the implementation of the Minsk agreements. Then each of you will be able to speak. But at the end of the day, we must decide what we will do next and how we should proceed in view of the current situation and our assessment of these developments.

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