Russia’s recognition of Donbass republics – actions, reactions and sanctions
Moscow has formalized its ties with the breakaway Ukrainian republics, sparking a flurry of sanctions from the West and a threat from Kiev
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision on Monday to recognize the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR) as independent from Ukraine has elicited responses ranging from elation in the Donbass to condemnation in Kiev and Western capitals.
Putin’s recognition and his request to deploy the troops abroad received unanimous support in the Russian parliament on Tuesday, but also a near-universal condemnation in the collective West, with the US, the UK, and the EU swiftly moving to impose sanctions on Moscow.
Here is how the situation has unfolded so far.
US sanctions Russia and the newly-recognized states
US President Joe Biden was quick to sign an executive order slapping sanctions on the two Donbass republics on Monday. White House press secretary Jen Psaki clarified that any “new investment, trade and financing by US persons to, from, or in” the DPR and LPR would be off limits. Biden followed up with the “first tranche” of new Russia sanctions on Tuesday over what he claimed was “the beginning of an invasion” of Ukraine. Announcing economic restrictions, the US leader insisted that “Russia’s elite and family members” would be taking a hit, claimed that the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project “will not move forward,” and that the sanctions would help “cut off Russia’s government from Western financing” by banning trade in its sovereign debt. Biden has also ordered additional 800 US troops redeployed to into Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania from other bases in Europe, while insisting Washington has “no intention of fighting Russia.”
EU claims its sanctions ‘will hurt’, UK targets ‘Putin’s inner circle’
The EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell on Tuesday announced a package of sanctions that he claimed “will hurt Russia and will hurt a lot.” He said the measures, which EU foreign ministers have agreed on, will target 27 individuals and entities, as well as all the 351 members of the Russian parliament who voted in favor of recognizing the two breakaway republics. Borrell has claimed that Russian troops were already in the Donbass, but stopped short of calling their alleged presence a “fully fledged invasion.” While promising even more sanctions depending on Moscow’s actions in Ukraine, the EU has added it was still open for diplomacy. Meanwhile in the UK, PM Boris Johnson on Tuesday imposed sanctions on what he described as “Putin’s inner circle,” targeting five Russian banks and freezing the UK assets of three “very high net worth individuals” – Gennady Timchenko, Igor Rotenberg and Boris Rotenberg – whom London believes to be Putin’s close associates. Johnson warned that more punitive measures were to follow. On Monday, British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss claimed that Russia’s recognition of the Donbass republics “signals an end to the Minsk process,” adding that Moscow chose a “path of confrontation over dialogue.”
Germany halts Nord Stream 2 certification
On Tuesday, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced Germany would temporarily halt the certification process for the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, a joint Russian-EU project opposed by the US, over Moscow’s recognition of the DPR and LPR. The pipeline, which would pump Russian natural gas to Germany and onward to Europe like its operational twin the Nord Stream, has been completed and awaits the final approval from Berlin, but has been repeatedly delayed by bureaucratic obstacles. German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock claimed earlier that Moscow’s recognition of the breakaway republics “intentionally negates years-long efforts in the Normandy format and by the OSCE.”
NATO welcomes sanctions, rejects Russia’s demands
The US-led military bloc NATO on Tuesday welcomed the economic sanctions imposed by Kiev’s western allies. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that Moscow’s recognition of the breakaway republics “further undermines Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, erodes efforts towards a resolution of the conflict, and violates the Minsk Agreements” – despite Russia repeatedly insisting it’s not a party to the conflict and thus not a subject of the accords. Stoltenberg particularly praised Germany’s decision to halt the certification of the Nord Stream 2, calling the crisis “the most dangerous moment for European security in a generation.” The NATO boss insisted that the alliance will not accept Moscow’s primary demand to stop its eastward expansion and formally refuse to accept countries such as Ukraine and Georgia, which border Russia. He again claimed the bloc cannot “compromise” on its principles of the so-called open-door policy and “first- and second-class NATO membership.”
Russia’s allies go against the Western grain
Meanwhile, Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua have recognized both the DPR and LPR, while Syria said it was preparing to do so. Neither China nor India joined the West in speaking out against the Russian move at the UN, even after UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called it “a violation of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine.” Beijing has called on all parties involved in the conflict to exercise restraint, emphasizing that diplomacy and dialogue were the preferred path to the resolution of the crisis.
Moscow evacuates diplomats from Kiev
Russian diplomats in Ukraine have “become the target of aggressive actions,” the Foreign Ministry in Moscow said on Tuesday as it announced the evacuation of the diplomatic staff from Kiev. The ministry’s statement accused Ukraine of failing to provide adequate security, which it’s obliged to do under the Vienna Convention, adding that the diplomats have been receiving “threats of physical violence.” The embassy in Kiev and consulates in Odessa, Lvov, and Kharkov have repeatedly come under attack, Moscow pointed out, as it announced the decision to “evacuate the personnel of Russian foreign missions in Ukraine… in the near future.” No timeline of the evacuation, or details on whether Moscow plans to keep a limited diplomatic corps in Ukraine, have so far been released.