Last week, the lower house of Russian parliament sent an appeal to Vladimir Putin asking him to recognise the Donbass breakaways as independent countries. However, in his talks with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz last Tuesday, the Russian president said he felt the potential of the Minsk Agreements has not yet been exhausted.
Denis Pushilin and Leonid Pasechnik, the leaders of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, have appealed to Russian President Vladimir Putin, urging him to recognise their status as independent nations.
“In the interests of determining our international legal standing and, as a result, the possibility for full-fledged resistance to the military aggression of Ukrainian authorities, to prevent casualties among civilians, the destruction of infrastructure and housing stock, on behalf of the entire population of the Donetsk People’s Republic, we ask you to recognise the DPR as an independent, democratic, legal and social state,” Pushilin said in an address Monday.
In addition to recognition, Pushilin called on Putin to “consider the possibility of concluding an agreement on friendship and cooperation between the DPR and the Russian Federation, providing for cooperation in the field of defence.”
Pushilin emphasized that Russia, as an intermediary in the Donbass conflict, has always defended the interests of the region’s residents, and thanked Putin for his “sympathetic attitude toward the fate” of the territories’ inhabitants, as well as the provision of humanitarian assistance to the region since 2014.
The DPR leader also thanked Russia for its role in the Minsk Peace Agreements process, but suggested that unfortunately, these agreements have not prevented Kiev from violating the ceasefire with military assistance from the US.
Pasechnik made an identical appeal to Putin on Monday. “Dear Vladimir Vladimirovich, in order to prevent the deaths of the civilian population of the republic, 300,000 of whom are Russian citizens, I ask you to recognize the sovereignty and independence of the Lugansk People’s Republic,” he said.
Background: Eight Years of War
The Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics were created in the spring of 2014, breaking off from Ukrainian jurisdiction in the aftermath of the February 2014 coup d’etat in Kiev, which replaced a Ukrainian government seeking to balance the interests of east and west with a pro-EU and pro-NATO government looking to cut ties with Moscow. The proclamations of independence prompted Kiev to send troops to the Donbass to crush Donetsk and Lugansk by force, and to launch a campaign of terror in other eastern and southern regions such as Kharkov, Nikolaev and Odessa, where anti-coup and pro-Russia activists were imprisoned, assassinated and disappeared. The Donbass republics responded by mobilizing militias consisting of ex-military and volunteers to halt the Ukrainian advance.
War raged throughout Donbass between May 2014 and February 2015, when a comprehensive ceasefire and peace agreement was signed by Ukraine and the three guarantor nations of Russia, Germany and France in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. The Minsk Agreements secured a halt in the fighting, but turned the war in the Donbass into a frozen conflict after Kiev refused to fulfill its political portion and initiate constitutional reforms to grant the self-proclaimed republics broad autonomy in exchange for their return to Ukrainian jurisdiction.
The war in the Donbass has caused the deaths of at least 13,000 people, with over 2.5 million local residents either internally or externally displaced in the fighting.
Last week, the frozen conflict began to heat up, with OSCE observers, the self-proclaimed republics and Kiev reporting hundreds of violations of the ceasefire, including artillery and mortar fire, sniper and sabotage attacks.