Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday recognised the independence of two separatist regions in eastern Ukraine in an emotional address on state-run television, despite warnings from the West this could trigger sweeping sanctions.
“I believe it is necessary to take a long overdue decision, to immediately recognise the independence and sovereignty of the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Lugansk People’s Republic,” he said.
State broadcasts then showed Putin signing mutual aid and friendship agreements with rebel leaders in the Kremlin.
At the end of his lengthy speech, Putin asked Russia’s upper house of parliament, the Federation Council, to “support this decision”.
Both Russia’s lower and upper houses of parliament are due to vote on the recognition on Tuesday.
The Russian leader also demanded that Ukraine end military operations against pro-Moscow rebels in the eastern part of the country, or face more possible bloodshed.
“We demand an immediate end to military operations,” Putin said, accusing Kyiv of “trying to organise a blitzkrieg” in east Ukraine.
“Otherwise, all responsibility for the possible continuation of bloodshed will be fully on the conscience of the regime in power in Ukraine,” he added.
The West had repeatedly warned Putin not to recognise Ukraine’s rebels, a move that effectively buries a fragile peace agreement regulating the conflict.
But the Russian leader ignored these pleas. He told French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz shortly before his address was aired that he would recognise them.
Putin spoke for over an hour in a speech heavy with historical references questioning Ukraine’s right to sovereignty and alleging the West had spent years cheating Moscow.
“Modern Ukraine was entirely and completely created by Russia,” Putin said.
Appearing visibly angry, Putin said Ukraine should be called “Ukraine of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin”, saying it owes its creation to the Russian revolutionary.
He also accused Kyiv of waging “genocide” in eastern Ukraine and of preparing to get hold of a nuclear arsenal.
He said the West “spat” on Russia’s security concerns for years by “moving NATO eastwards and putting military infrastructure closer to Russia’s borders.”
The Russian leader said the West was trying to “blackmail” Moscow, “regardless of the situation in Ukraine.”
“There is only one aim: to stop Russia from developing. And they will do it, as they did before, even without any formal pretext at all,” the longtime Russian leader said.