In a 55-minute long speech on Monday evening, Russian President Vladimir Putin officially recognized the two breakaway regions in the Eastern Ukraine, Donetsk and Lugansk, as independent republics. This followed a meeting of the Russian Security Council earlier in the day.
Just hours after the announcement, Putin ordered troops to be sent into the territories for what the Kremlin called “the function of peacekeeping.”
Putin’s wide-ranging speech covered a variety of topics related to the history of Ukrainian statehood, including the formation of modern Ukraine by the Soviet Union.
“Ukraine never had a tradition of genuine statehood,” he said.
Modern Ukraine was entirely created by Russia, more precisely, Bolshevik, communist Russia. This process began immediately after the revolution of 1917…
As a result of Bolshevik policy, Soviet Ukraine arose, which even today can with good reason be called ‘Vladimir Ilyich Lenin’s Ukraine.’ He is its author and architect. This is fully confirmed by archive documents … And now grateful descendants have demolished monuments to Lenin in Ukraine. This is what they call decommunisation. Do you want decommunisation? Well, that suits us just fine. But it is unnecessary, as they say, to stop halfway. We are ready to show you what real decommunisation means for Ukraine.
At the same time he stressed the historical ties between Russia and Ukraine, which make “Ukraine not just a neighboring country for us,” but instead “an integral part of our own history, culture, and spiritual world.”
The Russian president dedicated large parts of his speech to NATO expansionism. If Ukraine were to join NATO, it would serve as “a direct threat to the security of Russia,” he said.
Putin also blamed Ukraine for the failure of the 2014 Minsk agreement, saying that “they are not interested in peaceful solutions.” He accused Ukraine of “extreme nationalism, Nazism, and Russophobia” for implementing discriminatory laws against Russian minorities.
After recognizing Donetsk and Lugansk officially as independent republics, President Putin directed harsh words at the “aggressive regime” in Kyiv, “demanding the end of all hostilities” against the newly acknowledged republics, and putting the responsibility for potential further escalations on “the regime in Kyiv.”
Prior to the announcement, the Kremlin revealed that Putin had informed French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz about his decision to recognize the two breakaway regions in the Donbass. According to official sources quoted by Russia Today, the two European heads of state “expressed their disappointment with this development,” but emphasized their willingness to maintain diplomatic efforts.
Asked to comment on Vladimir Putin’s announcement, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the decision a “flagrant violation of the sovereignty and integrity of Ukraine,” considering the “repudiation of the Minsk process” a “very ill omen and a very dark sign.”
The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, shared Johnson’s sentiment in a tweet, invoking European “unity, firmness and determination in solidarity with Ukraine.” Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics in turn demanded the EU to “impose sanctions immediately.”
On February 24th, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov are scheduled to have a diplomatic meeting that could lead to a subsequent Biden–Putin summit.
David Boos is an organist, documentary filmmaker, and writer for The European Conservative and other publications.