Putin Recognizes Donbass Independence as Violence Soars

Putin’s decision effectively ends Minsk process. Meanwhile, violence escalates in Donbass as Kiev offensive may have begun, reports Joe Lauria.

Putin: Kiev ‘Puppets’ of US
Difficult to Verify Size of Kiev Forces on Front Line

Putin signing decrees recognizing Donetsk and Lugansk on Monday. (RT screen shot)

By Joe Lauria
Special to Consortium News

Russian President Vladimir Putin has recognized the independence from Ukraine of two breakaway provinces in Donbass as violence in the region continues to escalate.

In Monday evening televised remarks after signing decrees recognizing the independence of Lugansk and Donetsk, Putin denounced the government of Ukraine as “puppets” of the United States. He said:

“As for those who captured and are holding on to power in Kiev, we demand that they immediately cease military action. If not, the complete responsibility for the possibility of a continuation of bloodshed will be fully and wholly on the conscience of the regime ruling the territory of Ukraine.”

After Putin had spoken by phone earlier on Monday with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Monday, the Kremlin issued this statement:

“The president of Russia said that he intended to sign the relevant decree in the near future. The president of France and the Federal Chancellor of Germany expressed their disappointment with this development. At the same time, they indicated their readiness to continue contacts.”

The Duma last week passed a resolution recommending that Putin recognize the provinces’ independence from Ukraine.

Putin had resisted for eight years recognizing the independence of the self-declared republics of Lugansk and Donetsk in the Donbass, insisting instead that Kiev implement the 2014-15 Minsk agreements that would have given autonomy to the provinces, while they remained within Ukrainian territory.

The decision by Putin effectively declares that the Minsk process is over.

It does not mean at this point, however, that the people of Lugansk and Donetsk are ready to hold a referendum to join Russia or that Moscow is interested in making them part of Russia, as happened in Crimea in 2014.

The two provinces declared independence after the 2014 U.S.-backed coup in Kiev that overthrew democratically-elected President Viktor Yanukovych, who fled the violent capital to the Donbass, his base of support, exactly eight years ago today, on Feb. 21, 2014. On the next day Parliament, with only opposition leaders present, impeached him.

After anti-Russian language laws were passed by the coup government, hand-picked before the coup by the United States, and after neo-Nazis burned dozens of people alive in a building in Odessa on May 3, 2014, both Lugansk and Donetsk declared independence nine days later on May 12.

The coup government launched a civil war against the separatists, whom they called “terrorists.” In essence the Donbass was defending their democratic rights to vote, as a majority of the region voted for Yanukovych, in an election certified by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). In the eight years since, as many as 14,000 people have been killed in the fighting.

Violence Soars

FSB video of what it says is Ukrainian tank after being hit on Russian territory Monday. (RT Spanish screenshot)

The violence from that continuing conflict has soared since Thursday with thousands of ceasefire violations and explosions in and around Lugansk and Donetsk reported by OSCE monitors on the ground.

Russia said on Monday that it captured one Ukrainian soldier and killed five others after they crossed into Russian territory in Rostov, just over the border with Ukraine. The Russian government has not yet produced photographic evidence of the bodies or the prisoner. If they are indeed Ukraine soldiers it can not be spun by the West as a false flag attack, as the U.S. has said Russians would be killed on Russian territory as well as inside Donetsk and Lugansk. 

Kiev dismissed as “fake” the report of five of its soldiers having been killed. “I reiterate that the Ukrainian armed forces have not attacked Donetsk and Lugansk, have not sent saboteurs or APCs across the border, have not shelled Russia’s territory or its border checkpoint. All of these are the products of Russia’s fake factory,” Ukrainian military spokesman Pavlo Kovalchuk told reporters.

Kovalchuk also claimed explosions inside Donetsk and Lugansk were being staged. He said:“The occupiers themselves are blowing up infrastructure facilities in the occupied territories, carrying out erratic shelling of settlements and staging other provocations to escalate the situation.” 

Any civilians genuinely killed in those areas will very likely also be portrayed as victims of false flags by the West. A border post destroyed within Russian territory on Monday was dismissed by Kiev as “information war waged to pin the blame on Ukrainian armed forces.”

Both sides are blaming the other for the renewed shelling, with Donetsk and Lugansk both saying Kiev has begun an offensive to take back the territory. On Friday the leaders of the Donetsk and Lugansk called on civilians to flee to Russia, which has begun to accommodate thousands of refugees. Western commentators said the evacuation was a ploy to make it look like an government offensive was underway, and that it was clearing the way for Russia to invade.

Biden said Friday that it was a fiction that Ukraine is planning an offensive.

He acknowledged there’s been a “major uptick” in ceasefire violations. But he blamed them all on “Russian-backed fighters attempting to provoke Ukraine in the Donbass.” Biden said there’s “more and more disinformation being pushed out to the Russian public, including Russian-backed separatists, claiming that Ukraine is planning to launch a massive offensive attack in the Donbass.”

“Well look,” Biden went on, “There is simply no evidence of these assertions and it defies basic logic to believe the Ukrainians would chose this moment, with well over 150,000 troops arrayed on its borders, to escalate a year-long (sic) conflict.” Biden said this was “consistent with the Russian playbook that has been used before, to set up a false justification to act against Ukraine.”

The OSCE has monitors on the ground at the line of separation between Ukrainian forces and militias of the Donetsk and Lugansk. The OSCE provides daily reports on ceasefire violations and the number of explosions and usually indicates which side the fire came from.

It also publishes maps to indicate where most of the shells are landing.

Feb. 18 OSCE map showing majority of explosion inside Lugansk and Donetsk.

This map published by the OSCE showing where the explosions have landed clearly indicates that the vast majority of shells have fallen within separatist territory, meaning they originated from the government side.

Nevertheless, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said these attacks are “false flags” hatched by the Russians to justify an invasion.

Both The Washington Post and The New York Times are both blaming the majority of the shelling on the militias. For instance, in this report on Saturday, the Post only reported the Ukrainian military’s side of the story:

“The shelling in the government-controlled side of the Donbas region has increased “tenfold” since Thursday, the Ukrainian Armed Forces said in a statement. On Saturday, two soldiers were killed, five were injured and there were 70 total cease-fire violations by the Russian-backed separatists, the military said in a Facebook statement.”

Outside the city of Novoluhanske, along the demarcation line with the self-proclaimed Donetsk separatist territory, Col. Oleksandr Zinevich showed journalists where separatist forces have been pounding an abandoned industrial area with artillery in recent days.

This area has not been a hot spot in years, but Zinevich said he sees the eruption of attacks over the past three days — including artillery, mortars and grenades — as evidence of a coordinated campaign being launched by Russia.

Moscow is trying to provoke Ukrainian forces into responding and giving Russia an excuse to launch an attack, he said. He has told his troops not to respond unless their lives are in danger.”

Government Forces at Donbass

What is curiously lacking in Western media reports of events in Donbass is any mention of the size of Ukraine government forces along the line of confrontation. U.S. and European newspapers and television repeatedly show detailed maps of Russian forces near the Ukrainian border but never show any Ukrainian military positions. It’s like setting up a chess board with only black pieces.

Understanding the size of the government deployment is key in helping to determine if an offensive has begun. Not mentioning it at all suspiciously appears as if an offensive is being covered up.

Last Thursday, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Vershinin told the U.N. Security Council that 122,000 Ukrainian military forces were lined up at the front with Donbass with the possible intention of launching an offensive.  It is a number difficult to verify. (There also unknown numbers of neo-Nazi groups, such as Azov Battalion and Right Sektor reportedly at the border.)

An OSCE spokesman told Consortium News that though the organization has about 1,300 monitors directly on the ground, it did not have figures on the size of the Ukrainian government force on the line of separation although it is within its mandate to report on it. 

The authorities in Donetsk and Lugansk have published this map of what it says are Ukrainian government positions.  Below that is a publicly available chart showing Ukraine’s ground forces in its Operational Command East. (Both can be enlarged by clicking on them.)

Joe Lauria is editor-in-chief of Consortium News and a former U.N. correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, and numerous other newspapers. He was an investigative reporter for the Sunday Times of London and began his professional work as a 19-year old stringer for The New York Times.  He can be reached at joelauria@consortiumnews.com and followed on Twitter @unjoe  

22 comments for “Putin Recognizes Donbass Independence as Violence Soars

  1. Templar
    February 23, 2022 at 00:05

    That the US and UK show absolutely no concern for the security of their own borders but are willing to risk a major military conflict in order to protect the borders of a corrupt Ukraine that would otherwise be of no geopolitical interest, clearly highlights their insane Russiaphobia.

  2. mgr
    February 22, 2022 at 05:31

    It seems to me that Putin’s decision to recognize the breakaway regions of Donbass is a way to forestall further damage and loss of life in these areas. Kiev has reportedly amassed 122,000 troops along the border of the Donbass region. Some portion of those are Ukrainian neo-nazis no doubt with ties to the atrocities committed in this region in 2014. It is also somewhat doubtful whether Zelenskyy is in control of these forces. These Western Ukrainian forces have been whipped into a frenzy (point person Victoria Nuland) and armed to the teeth by the US and its allies. Until Putin’s announcement, these forces were probably feeling pretty brave. What was their plan? To invade the Donbass region and force the residents, of which around a 1/3 are ethnic Russians, back under Kiev’s control, most likely accompanied by an orgy of looting, pillaging and burning?

    What everyone involved, and especially the external powers, should have been doing is toning it down, throwing cold water on these Kiev nationalists who have been agitating for conflict, and instead, pressing for discussion over the Minsk accords. This is in fact what Russia has been doing. For the last eight years, Kiev has steadily refused to abide by or move on the Minsk accords while Russia has steadily, until now, refused to recognize the requests for independence by the Donbass regions and instead has promoted and stood by the Minsk accords.

    Now, after all this time, the whipped up and armed Kiev nationalists are on the verge of starting a bloodbath on the people of the breakaway region of Donbass. Since the West has refused to calm things down and in fact has purposely whipped them up, it seems to me that Russia and Putin are saying enough. If the Kiev nationalists invade now, they will face not just the Donbass militias but the Russian army which would be their end. Seems like a good move to prevent war and give everyone the opportunity to get back to talking. The US will be disappointed but for the actual people who live there, this is a godsend. Once again, it seems that Russia is acting for the safety and interests of the people living there while the US can’t wait to throw them under the bus to score some geopolitical points. The fact that the EU has been going along with the US plan is especially disappointing. I can imagine that Putin is also fed up with them. Personally, I suggest, America out of Europe at least as a military power before it drags everyone down with it.

  3. Manifold Destiny
    February 22, 2022 at 04:40

    I have a question. It is often stated that the Ukrainian situation grew worse following “the 2014 U.S.-backed coup in Kiev that overthrew democratically-elected President Viktor Yanukovych.” And yet I’ve also read that current Ukrainian President Zelensky is the first “democratically-elected President”. Which is true?

    You go on to write that it was “an election certified by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).” But CN just published a lengthy article that contends that the OSCE is a compromised organization.

    In other words, just how “democratic” was the election that put the oligarch Yanukovych in power prior to the US-backed coup that forced him into exile? Trust but verify, right?

    Thanks, CN!

    • TimN
      February 22, 2022 at 12:57

      There is no question that Yanukovych was overthrown in a coup sponsored by the US. As far as I know, and have read at dozens of sources over the years, the “plutocrat” ( that’s the first time I’ve ever seen him referred to with that term–a term a defender of the coup might use, and “plutocrat” is invariably used by Russophobes to describe Russian oligarchs, and, well, plutocrats, but the term is rarely used to describe US, British, French, etc. Money men). Lastly, “Trust, but verify” is a phrase invariably directed at the enemies, real or imagined of the US, which actually means, “Don’t ever trust, so why bother to verify? Because if we verify we might get an answer we don’t like.” Certainly the US has never felt the need to verify anything having to do with itself.. Anyway, I’m sure a simple internet search will tell you what you need to know, but if Yanukovych was indeed duly democratically elected, them Zelensky certainly can’t be Ukraine’s first democratically elected President, can he? Where did you read that?

      • Manifold Destiny
        February 23, 2022 at 05:36

        Thanks for the response, Tim. Although in truth, my question was directed at the CN team.

        • Consortiumnews.com
          February 23, 2022 at 07:15

          “Yanukovych set to become president as observers say Ukraine election was fair”
          hxxps://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/feb/08/viktor-yanukovych-ukraine-president-election

          Joe Lauria questioned the head of the OSCE at the UN about it and he acknowledged the election was free and fair.

  4. Ian Stuart Perkins
    February 22, 2022 at 04:18

    ‘Kiev dismissed as “fake” the report of five of its soldiers having been killed. “I reiterate that the Ukrainian armed forces have not attacked Donetsk and Lugansk, have not sent saboteurs or APCs across the border, have not shelled Russia’s territory or its border checkpoint.’

    Kiev also denies that its paramilitary groups are active in the region. Yet the New York Times, hardly a mouthpiece for Russian propaganda, recently interviewed and videoed some of them there, which casts considerable doubt on Kiev’s other denials.
    ‘Ukraine’s paramilitaries prepare for conflict with Russia.’
    hXXps://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/19/world/europe/ukraine-russia-donbas.html

  5. Francis Lee
    February 22, 2022 at 02:54

    Interesting to note the following from Lauria.

    ”(There also unknown numbers of neo-Nazi groups, such as Azov Battalion and Right Sektor and reportedly at the border.)” And they are bona fide neo-nazi formations, flaunting SS banners and reminiscent of the wartime SS divisions and the Essensgruppen (SS Death Squads) who operated in Ukraine and the Baltics during 1941-45. The indigenous fascist groups were also highly visible in the events which took place in 2014 which illegally ousted the sitting President Yukanovich.

    Now that the Don Bass republics have fought for and won their freedom from the Bandera scum, this will send a message to all the Russian speaking areas in the Ukraine: Kharkov, Mariupol, Zaphorozhya , Kherson, and Odessa East of the river Dnieper. This is an historic moment.

  6. AKD
    February 21, 2022 at 21:19

    Although things look bad for the people of Ukraine,let’s keep in mind at least three things:

    1-This whole situation is quite unlikely to lead to WWIII(no one in the west/U.S has stated that they will put anything in ukraine…and NATO isn’t even that prepared for a war to begin with)

    2-things are still quite fluid..but still,I really don’t think we’ll get WWIII out of this(no way putin is gonna break out the nukes just like that and nobody in NATO/US(for the most part) is that stupid/suicidal.)

    3-Russia really isn’t that outclassed militarily..IF we (stupidly) decide to put offensive weapons on Ukraine,then Russia will simply adjust and solidify MAD.

    I just can’t see this being bad for anyone but the Ukrainians. No one in NATO(US included) is going to fight Russia directly and putin still has things under control.

    Like I said in another post,the chances of us having to experience WWIII in our lifetimes is quite low(Russia wouldn’t screw over China like that and nuclear war is bad for business(hell,even for the MIC to some extent))…But expect to see a lot of proxy wars..much like what we are kinda seeing transpire right now.

    And also,Russia/Putin are not the trigger/nuke happy madmen that people in the west LOVE to see them as.

    Russia knows what MAD is and unless people start seriously considering marching on Moscow(a situation where the nukes WILL fly) I sincerely doubt we’ll have to worry too much.

  7. Observer
    February 21, 2022 at 20:42

    The streams of lies coming out of Washington and repeated endlessly in the media today are just horrifying, even though I have lived over a half century of adult life amidst fact-free narratives from my government about virtually everything important. I feel sickened to be forced to bear silent witness yet again to the spectacle of people on the other side of the plant being condemned to suffer violent death, whatever their side they may happen to be on, because the inhuman monsters who control my government do not believe they have enough money yet.

    • Gene Poole
      February 22, 2022 at 04:53

      Other side of the planet? I live in Europe and they’re in my back yard. The dishwashing liquid they use is made in the same plant that makes mine.

  8. renate
    February 21, 2022 at 18:38

    Who could believe a word that comes out of the mouth from Biden, Blinken, or Sullivan or anything in print from the WP or NYT or any type of MSM?

    • nomad
      February 21, 2022 at 21:18

      Joe,

      Nice article. Talk about not learning and repeating history again and again.
      Watch this nice poly sci video that relates to your article:
      hxxps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JrMiSQAGOS4

  9. Andrew Thomas
    February 21, 2022 at 18:05

    Thank you, Mr. Lauria, for your brilliant and brave reportage of this potential catastrophe. It is hard to imagine what our government has in mind now that it has finally goaded Ukraine’s government to do what it has wanted for some time. We know how they will spin it, but in terms of actual reaction to actual reality, it seems quite mysterious. Given the admissions that they had no idea what to do when they ‘won’ in Iraq, is it possible that they don’t really care, as long as Germany shuts down Nordstream 2? And is it really as certain as Biden thinks (I know-using the word loosely) that Germany WILL do as it’s told, as it has for 75 years? And, if it doesn’t, THEN WHAT? I know that during the wonderful conversation you hosted with Scott Ritter and Alexander Mercouris, the possibility that this could lead to WW3 didn’t come up, and properly so. All three of you are quite sane, and stuff like that just cannot be considered possible by sane people. I hope that, if their savage strategy comes to naught, Blinken and Sullivan turn out to be sane enough to not fire off the first missile. Because I am afraid they are the voices in Biden’s ears who matter, and if they are not crazy they deserve Oscar nominations for their portrayals of the mad.

  10. Josh A
    February 21, 2022 at 17:28

    Defense Minister Shoigu, today in the publicly televised meeting of the Russian Security Council, put the number of Ukrainian military at the LDNR border at 60,000. It may also be important to distinguish between ‘soldiers’ and ‘volunteers’ (the latter are anti-Russian volunteer fighters who could easily be enticed to do a mission across the Russian border. In that sense, the Ukrainian minister wouldn’t be ‘lying’. I did see extensive footage of both covered bodies and one captured Ukrainian, with the damage to the two vehicles, on Soloviev Live.
    Although this is all by all a peaceful move by Russia – it could actually end the fighting swiftly – the question is how Zelensky will react and how the Americans will react, who have / are saying that Russia will actually go and take Kiev. The renewed mention by Putin of ‘Novorossiya’ and the likely confusion there will be across Ukraine, may give another period where the rump of Ukraine is extremely fragile and the country may break up.

    • Carl Zaisser
      February 22, 2022 at 07:05

      I wish you had posted a link to the photos you mentioned. I wish that all evidence (including from the OSCE) would be posted on social media (I’m on FB’s ‘Noam Chomsky’s Followers’) so that we all can have some basis to judge all the countervailing claims.

  11. Jeff Harrison
    February 21, 2022 at 17:17

    Matters are worse. While it’s hard, if not impossible, to determine what all is going on, but… (a) Classic American dumb as a box of rocks move. Why does the United States continue to step into and/or incite civil wars? Somebody else can’t win a civil war, only the contestants can win one. You’d have thought that we’d have figured that out after ‘nam, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan. But, no, apparently we’re not that bright. and (b) after listening to the class clown in the presidential palace in Kiev spout that they were going to get Crimea back (even tho’ it wasn’t theirs to begin with), what it looks like is that the Ukraine is likely to be dismembered in much the same way that the regime in Washington has been trying to dismember Russia – leaving nasty Nazis in the West, ethnic Russians in the East, and Crimea in Russia.

  12. Lois Gagnon
    February 21, 2022 at 16:42

    This shows the true reason behind Russiagate. A psyop to prepare the US population for blaming Russia for the US destabilization campaign on Russia’s border. Sadly, most people who turn to US corporate media for information are falling for the psyop. Trying to argue with them is fruitless. They’re immune to alternative information.

  13. Guy St Hilaire
    February 21, 2022 at 16:31

    With the 2 republics being recognized by Russia the situation will change .The Minsk agreement is now obsolete and it will be for the republics to ask for protection from Russia .The ball has now moved the court and it is too late for Kiev as not having even tried to negotiate with the 2 provinces as part of the previously agreed Minsk agreement . It would seem to me that Russia was very patient prior to these last developments and now the President of Russia has made his move on this geopolitical chessboard.

    • michael888
      February 22, 2022 at 09:36

      Looks like Putin has taken the bait. Ukraine (with the US’s backing) has refused to implement the Minsk Accords for seven years and never had any intention of honoring the deal. Putin said when he annexed Crimea (in agreement with their referendum) that he had no interest in the Eastern provinces, but the Russian Duma and the US have forced his hand. Biden now has his proxy war to increase his poll numbers, the MIC gets huge weapon sales, and Putin must decide whether to end the war instantly or to allow it to fester, with no doubt the further provocation of genocide of Russians in Ukraine. A sudden major strike would probably be best, but would hurt Russia’s standing in the international community. A massive strike followed by complete withdrawal and a nod to “Ukrainian self rule” might be tolerated. A prolonged escalated war, a slow bleeding, over what has been going on since the US overthrew the elected Ukrainian President in 2014, would allow ever more weapons build-up, and outcry from Russians over the mistreatment of Ukrainian Russians by the American-backed NAZIs. Biden wants to fight Russia to “the last Ukrainian”, similar to the Russian War in Afganistan.
      As Canada has shown, the real warfare these days is financial. Sanctions kill more people and are cheaper and without the embarrassing war crimes the US always commits. Stealing money is what Biden and his friends do best.

  14. jo6pac
    February 21, 2022 at 16:10

    Good and Thank You V. Putin. Amerika potus is now planning more what ever on Russia.

  15. robert e williamson jr
    February 21, 2022 at 16:00

    Bush 41 shouldn’t have reneged on Bakers promise of no eastward encroachment in the region, Biden needed to butt out before he ever started.

    Looks as thought the intelligence community never considered these moves by Putin or did they know?

Comments are closed.