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Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday he recognized Moscow-backed separatists’ claims to the whole of Ukraine’s Donbass region, ratcheting up the potential of direct confrontation with Kyiv’s troops.
The remarks are a significant escalation as they put Russian forces and separatist fighters on a potential collision course with Ukrainian soldiers across the long-standing line of control in the Donbass region.
Putin on Monday recognized the so-called Luhansk and Donetsk People’s Republics in eastern Ukraine as independent but those separatist-controlled areas do not cover all of the Donbass region, although the separatists claim the full area.
“We have recognized all their fundamental documents — including their constitutions, which describe their borders as those of the Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts [regions] when they were part of Ukraine,” Putin said.
The provocative speech marks the Russian leader’s latest escalation in a conflict with Kyiv that saw him commit Russian troops across the Ukrainian border Monday night, only hours after he officially recognized the breakaway regions.
“We hope that these disputed questions will be resolved in the course of talks between the powers in Kyiv and of these republics. Unfortunately, at this moment in time we understand that this is not possible due to the military action that is going on. These appear to be escalating,” he added.
Regarding Moscow’s provision of military assistance for the breakaway republics, Putin said: “In the case of need, we have stated clearly that we will fulfil the responsibilities that we have taken upon ourselves.”
If that weren’t enough, Putin also pushed for the “verifiable demilitarization of today’s Ukraine,” adding this was his “most important” demand of Kyiv.