Russian President Vladimir Putin has decided to sign a decree declaring the rebel-held and Russian-backed regions of eastern Ukraine—Donetsk and Lugansk—as independent. There are fears that Putin may use such a declaration to justify an armed invasion of these two areas, thus aggravating the situation to such an extent that an armed conflict with Ukraine becomes inevitable.
Putin informed the leaders of France and Germany, Emmanuel Macron and Olaf Scholz that he was going to declare these two regions independent. The French and the German leaders expressed disappointment with the decision.
Earlier, on Monday, Putin held a meeting of his “security council”, where he said that he would soon decide whether Donetsk and Lugansk should be recognised as independent. All the senior officials present at the “security council” meeting urged him to declare the breakaway provinces of Donetsk and Lugansk as independent. “I have heard your opinions. The decision will be taken today,” Putin said.
Meanwhile, a projectile that was allegedly fired from the Ukrainian side destroyed a border office of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) on Monday, but did not lead to any casualties, the FSB alleged.
“On 21 February, at 09:50 a.m (06:50 GMT), an unidentified projectile fired from the territory of Ukraine fully destroyed the office of border patrols of the Russian FSB border department in the Rostov region, located at a distance of about 150 meters [490 feet] from the Russian-Ukrainian border,” the FSB said in a statement.
Challenging the FSB’s statement, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, Dmytro Kuleba tweeted, Ukraine did NOT: *Attack Donetsk or Luhansk *Send saboteurs or APCs over the Russian border *Shell Russian territory *Shell Russian border crossing *Conduct acts of sabotage Ukraine also does NOT plan any such actions.:
Later Dmytro Kuleba urged the UN Security Council to hold a meeting on the situation. “On President @ZelenskyyUa’s initiative I officially requested UNSC member states to immediately hold consultations under article 6 of the Budapest memorandum to discuss urgent actions aimed at de-escalation, as well as practical steps to guarantee the security of Ukraine.” Kuleba tweeted.
The recent tensions are a result of Russia’s build-up of around 150,000 troops just over the border from the Donbas region in the east, in Belarus to the north and Crimea to the south, which began in the autumn.
Russia claims the surge of forces has always been for military exercises and that it poses no threat to Ukraine or any other nation, but has refused to offer any other explanation for the biggest build-up of military might in Europe since the Cold War.
On Saturday, Russia’s Rostov Region had opened 15 border crossings for refugees from the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbas.
Later on the same day, Denis Pushilin, the head of pro-Russian separatist DPR announced that he had signed a decree on general mobilisation.
Yesterday, Putin and Macron held phone talks at the French side’s initiative. The Presidents agreed on the trilateral group (Russia, Ukraine, OSCE—Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe) talks on Ukraine to be held, according to media reports.