On February 21, Putin signed two decrees on recognizing the independence of the Donetsk and Lughansk People's Republics and two treaties on friendship and mutual assistance. The two regions broke away from Ukraine's control in 2014. On behalf of the self-declared republics, the agreements were signed by their heads - Denis Pushilin for the DPR and Leonid Pasechnik for the LPR.
Vladimir Putin noted that he considers it necessary to make a long overdue decision. Earlier on Monday, February 21, the Security Council had a meeting about this issue.
During his speech, Vladimir Putin drew attention to the fact that the situation in the Donbas region has again escalated and become critical. The head of state also mentioned some facts from history. Before signing the decrees, the President of Russia spoke on television for more than 40 minutes about the history of Ukraine, its past and present. “The Soviet Ukraine was made as a result of the Bolshevik policy, and even today the Ukraine can be named after Vladimir Ilyich Lenin. He is its author and architect. This is fully and completely confirmed by archival documents, including Lenin’s directives on Donbas, which was literally squeezed as a part of Ukraine,” he said. This was followed by the numerous examples of modern Ukraine’s hostility against Russia.
“Russia has done everything to preserve the territorial integrity of Ukraine <…> Everything is in vain,” Putin said. After that, he announced the decision and called on the State Duma and the Federation Council to ratify the agreements.
Ukraine's entry into NATO and the subsequent deployment of NATO facilities here is a foregone conclusion. This is a matter of time, ”he said in his address to the Russians.
“We clearly understand that under such a scenario, the level of military threats to Russia will rise dramatically, many times over, and I pay special attention to the fact that the danger of a sudden strike on our country will also increase dramatically,” Putin continued.
Shortly after Putin's announcement, US President Joe Biden held a telephone conversation with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron. Politicians condemned the decision of the Russian leadership, saying that it will not go without a response.
US State Secretary, Anthony Blinken, said that this step can be interpreted as a violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and Russia's refusal of its obligations under the Minsk agreements. The German Foreign Ministry urged Russia to reverse its decision, while Finance Minister, Christian Lindner, said the move could lead to Russia's isolation "to the detriment of the Russian people" and even make NATO and the EU closer.
Italy and Austria also said that Putin's recognition of the DPR and LPR is a violation of the Minsk agreements and hinders the diplomatic settlement of the Ukrainian crisis. Moldovan President Maia Sandu strongly condemned the decision of the Russian leadership, while Georgian leader Salome Zurabishvili called the recent events in Ukraine a repetition of 2008.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres also spoke out against Russia's decision, saying that by doing so Moscow violated the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine.
"Our country is always open for direct and honest dialogue, for the search for diplomatic solutions to the most complex problems," Putin said in a video address.
But he added: "The interests of Russia, the security of our citizens, are non-negotiable for us."