Brussels/Moscow/Kiev, Feb 21 (EFE).- The Kremlin on Monday said Russian President Vladimir Putin has decided to recognize the independence of two breakaway territories of Ukraine’s Donbas region that are controlled by Moscow-backed separatists.
The statement said Putin told French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz he intended to sign a decree that recognized Donetsk and Luhansk as independent states.
“Today, the leadership of the (Donetsk’s People’s Republic) and (Luhansk People’s Republic) received appeals to recognize their sovereignty in connection with the military aggression of the Ukrainian authorities, the massive shelling of the territory of Donbas, as a result of which the civilian population is suffering,” the statement said.
The French and German leaders expressed their disappointment with the developments but said they were still open to dialogue, the Kremlin added.
The West has warned that Russia’s recognition of Donetsk and Luhansk represent an end of the Minsk II Agreement, a peace deal signed in 2015 that is aimed at resolving the conflict in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region.
So far, more than 61,000 people have fled Donetsk and Luhansk.
Clashes have continued in the area as authorities in Kiev said Monday that 14 artillery attacks were launched against Ukrainian positions there.
Meanwhile, the Kremlin said on Monday there were no specific plans for a summit between Putin and US President Joe Biden, amid the severe tensions over Ukraine.
Macron proposed the summit after speaking to Putin and Biden over the phone. Biden has already agreed to hold the summit on the condition that Moscow does not invade Ukraine.
“There are no concrete plans in that regard yet,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted as saying by the Russian News Agency (TASS), adding it was “too early” to talk about plans for organizing any summits.
“Surely, we do not rule it out, and if necessary, of course, the presidents of Russia and the United States can at any time decide on contacts either by phone or in person. That will be their decision,” he stressed.
Putin spoke to the German and French leaders after chairing a meeting of Russia’s Security Council on Monday to address the Ukraine crisis and the military escalation in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region.
Earlier on Monday, the European Union’s top diplomat called for mobilizing all forms of diplomatic efforts to avoid a war between Russia and Ukraine.
“As many diplomatic tools that one could imagine should be mobilized,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told reporters upon arriving at a meeting with the bloc’s foreign ministers to address the Ukraine crisis.
“Summits, meetings at the level of ministers, at the level of leaders, whatever format, whatever way of talking and sitting at the table and trying to avoid war is badly needed and we will support anything that can make diplomatic conversations the best way – the only way – to look for a solution to the crisis,” he added.
Borrell made it clear that the EU will impose sanctions on Moscow if diplomacy fails.
“The work is done. We are ready,” he said, adding he will present the sanctions at an extraordinary meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council “at the right moment.”
“When the moment comes, I will call for an extraordinary meeting, because sanctions are a competence of the Council.”
Meanwhile, the chief of the general staff of the Belarusian armed forces, Maj. Gen. Viktor Gulevich, said Monday that the thousands of Russian troops stationed near the Ukrainian border in Belarus, a close ally of Moscow, will return to their barracks only when an “objective need” arises.