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The end of the war or a new escalation. How Putin recognized "L/DPR" and what will happen next in the Donbass
By Maxim Minin
The following is a translation of the following article: https://ctrana.online/news/378086-priznanie-dnr-i-lnr-chto-eto-znachit.html
Today, Russia has decided to recognize the "DPR" and "LPR" as independent states. President Putin convened the Security Council, all of whose members were in favor of such recognition.
And later in his speech, Putin announced that he had signed the relevant decree. The performance lasted almost an hour. During it, Putin spoke in detail about his vision of the history of Ukraine before and after the declaration of independence, spoke about the attitude towards modern Ukraine, Maidan and Ukraine's accession to NATO (but we will analyze his speech in detail later).
As for the Donbass, Putin announced his decision to recognize the "L/DNR".
On Tuesday, the decision must be approved by both houses of the Russian parliament - the State Duma and the Federation Council. But after Putin's decision, they will, of course, approve the decision.
In addition, the State Duma and the Federation Council will ratify agreements on friendship, cooperation and mutual assistance with the LDNR. Including in the military sphere. This will mean entering the territory of the "republics" of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation.
Putin has already warned in his address: “We demand from those who seized and hold power in Kiev to immediately stop hostilities. Otherwise, the entire responsibility for the possible continuation of bloodshed will be entirely on the conscience of the ruling regime on the territory of Ukraine.”
"Strana" analyzes why Russia decided to recognize the Donbass "republics" and what the consequences of this will be.
Prerequisites for recognition
There are several important milestones that have accelerated the situation with regards to recognition.
The main one is the start of a dialogue on global security with the Americans. A dialogue that actually began in the summer between Putin and Biden. It formalized in December, with the appearance of Russian proposals to reduce the potential of NATO near the borders with Russia.
But already at the end of January, it became clear that the negotiation process stalled: on the key demands of the Russian Federation - including legally closing NATO for Ukraine - the West refused. And on January 19, the Communist Party of Russia submitted to the Duma its draft on the recognition of the "L/DPR".
The Kremlin then sent several signals at once that this was not the time, and would be tantamount to withdrawing from the Minsk agreements. And at first it seemed that the chances of passing this resolution were small.
However, later its position began to change, as it became more and more obvious that the Ukrainian authorities did not want to comply with the Minsk agreements.
Although this was part of the agreement between Putin and Biden (this as how they talked about it in the Kremlin, and in the West, by their actions, they generally confirmed that they were trying to achieve progress on the Minsk agreements). But Zelensky directly said that the political part would not be implemented.
And closer to mid-February, the situation began to change. On February 14, Putin and Lavrov stated that the West had not given Russia the answers it expected to hear. Also, Moscow had repeatedly stated that Kiev does not want to comply with the Minsk agreements. And already on February 15, the State Duma voted for the recognition of the "LPR" and "DPR".
Moreover, a tougher version of the resolution was chosen - the same communist one. It intended to appeal directly to Putin. There was a softer "United Russia" option - with the direction of the resolution to the Foreign Ministry. But they didn't even consider it.
That is, the Kremlin decided to show its determination to the West and Ukraine. And, apparently, to give one last chance to start the implementation of "Minsk".
In Europe, after that, they began to try to persuade Zelensky to submit the laws necessary for this to the Trilateral Contact Group. He seemed to promise to do so, but things did not move beyond words. And officials continued to say directly that the political provisions of the agreements would not be implemented.
On February 17, the situation moved to a new stage. Another escalation began in the Donbass. But the "republics" reacted extremely harshly to it: they announced the evacuation of the population and general mobilization.
They began to declare that Kiev decided to attack them and destroy them. Ukraine denied such intentions. But the fighting truly did get very intense. Civilians and soldiers began to die. Plus, Russia announced that its territory was being shelled and even that a sabotage group had broken over the border into Russia.
Three days later, the "heads of the DPR and LPR" turned to Putin with a request to recognize the "republics". And most importantly - to provide them with military assistance.
Recognize and join. How the Security Council passed on "LDNR"
Immediately after the statements of Pushilin and Pasechnik, a meeting of the Security Council began under the leadership of Putin on the 21st of February. It was broadcast live.
Putin took the floor and stated two facts: negotiations with the Americans are not moving forward. And the attempts to reanimate "Minsk-2" linked to them aren’t not working either (the President of the Russian Federation blamed Kiev for this).
Further, the officials involved in the above issues talked about what was happening in the negotiations - both with the States and with Ukraine.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stated that there is no progress on key issues with the Americans, but it makes sense to continue negotiations with the West, even on minor topics.
Then the floor was taken by Deputy Head of the Presidential Administration Dmitry Kozak, who said that there had been no progress on the Minsk track since 2015. "Neither Ukraine nor the West needs Donbass," Kozak said. In his opinion, there was no point in continuing to try to revive the Minsk agreements. The Ukrainian authorities do not intend to fulfill them.
By the way, as we can see, this contrasts with what Lavrov said about negotiations with the West on security in Europe (Russia certainly does see the point in continuing them).
This was followed by several more speeches. Defense Minister Shoigu said that Ukraine had concentrated more than 50,000 troops in the Donbas. And he expressed concern that Kiev could regain its nuclear status. In his opinion, Ukrainian specialists could equip “Tochka U” missiles with nuclear charges.
Director of the FSB Bortnikov said that on that day there had been an attempt from Ukraine to "invade" the territory of Russia. Members of the sabotage group were killed, and one was captured (Ukraine denies such an operation).
Further, members of the Security Council began to speak out about whether it was necessary to recognize the "L/DPR". Everyone predictably agreed with this thesis. But there were interesting nuances.
The head of the Foreign Intelligence Service, Naryshkin, suggested giving the West a few days on the eve of the recognition in order to put pressure on Kiev to carry out "Minsk." But after Putin's leading questions, he said that he supported the recognition of the independence of the "L/DPR" (however, he made a reservation and said at first that he supported the entry of the "L/DPR" into Russia - or did not make a reservation, but simply announced the next step ahead of time).
Two more performances attracted attention.
The first was that of Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev. He stated that it was necessary to recognize "L/DPR" within "historical borders" - that is, within the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
The same was stated by the commander of the National Guard Valery Zolotov. And, according to him, it was necessary to "go further." Where – he did not say. But apparently he had in mind that it was necessary to go further in Ukraine. As Zolotov said, for the time being it was being pumped up with conventional weapons, but in the future - with nuclear weapons.
After listening to the members of the Security Council, Putin said that he would make a final decision today. And in the evening he voiced it.
What are the consequences of recognizing "republics"?
On the 22nd of February, the Duma and the Federation Council, in addition to recognizing the "L/DPR", may approve the first laws on relations with the "republics".
For example, recognizing their boundaries. True, it is not yet clear which ones - the existing ones or those that Zolotov and Kolokoltsev spoke about (that is, including Mariupol, Kramatorsk, Slavyansk, and so on).
At this point, several solutions appear, but so far it is most likely that we are talking about the existing borders of the "LDNR" - since recognition was justified by the protection of the inhabitants of these territories.
The second question is military aid to the "republics". Pushilin and Pasechnik’s speeches took place in the context of escalation, so the Duma is likely to do just that if Putin formally recognizes them.
Vyacheslav Nikonov, the first deputy chairman of the State Duma Committee on International Affairs, has already stated that "friendship and cooperation agreements between Russia and the Donbass republics can be quickly signed, since the texts are probably already in a high degree of readiness."
That is, with regards to this mechanism, everything is more or less clear.
But what will happen next?
So far, there are two main options.
1. If the West does not impose harsh sanctions and reacts in much the same way as when Russia recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia in 2008 (that is, practically without any serious measures), and there will be no major provocations on the front line with direct clashes between the Russian and Ukrainian armies, then everything, more or less, will end there - the Russian authorities simply recognize the "L/DPR".
And at the same time, the military escalation around Ukraine would begin to fade, and the war in the Donbass would quickly completely stop if Russian troops stood on the line of demarcation. The Armed Forces of Ukraine would definitely not shoot at them.
Therefore, the situation would be the same as on the border with Crimea - calm and without war (just as there is no war on the borders of Georgia with South Ossetia and Abkhazia, where Russian troops are stationed). In the future, it is quite likely that "L/DPR" will be annexed to Russia as Crimea was. With the West, Russia will continue a not unpromising (as Lavrov said) dialogue on a new European security architecture. By the way, Putin also made it clear that there could be progress on this front, citing the words of Macron, who said that Biden's position on the non-expansion of NATO had already begun to change (although Macron did not say how).
2. If the West reacts harshly and provocations continue along the demarcation line, which would develop into battles between the Armed Forces of Ukraine and the Russian army, then the situation might develop according to an unpredictable scenario. With serious potential for further growth of escalation around Ukraine and on the territory of the entire country.
As for Ukraine as a whole, Russia's recognition of the "republics" means the funeral of the Minsk agreements, which the Ukrainian authorities did not want to fulfill anyway. That is, theoretically, ways are opened to conclude some other agreements - most likely global ones, where the Ukrainian problem will be included (primarily on joining NATO). By and large, only the settlement of relations in the Russia-Ukraine-West triangle and the creation of a new security architecture in the region could finally stabilize the situation around Ukraine, and even within the country.
But this, we repeat, is if things go according to the first scenario. If according to the second, then the situation could develop unpredictably.