Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses the public

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks in Moscow on February 21, 2022. (Photo: Kremlin Press Office/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

'Very Dangerous': Putin Authorizes 'Peacekeeping' Forces for Eastern Ukraine

Ukraine's foreign minister appealed for diplomacy, saying "it's exactly now that we all should calmly focus on de-escalation efforts."

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Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday formally recognized Donetsk and Luhansk--two self-proclaimed people's republics in eastern Ukraine--as independent, a move opposed by the leadership of Ukraine and Western powers.

After a lengthy address to the Russian public, Putin signed documents recognizing the Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) and Luhansk People's Republic (LPR), which have been subjects of tension and conflict between Russia and Ukraine for nearly a decade. Subsequently, Putin issued separate decrees instructing the nation's defense ministry to assume "the function of peacekeeping" in the breakaway regions.

No deployment of forces has been determined, but the latest developments only intensified existing tensions over Ukraine.

"True friends of Ukraine, and of global peace, should be calling for a U.S. and NATO compromise with Russia."

Putin's move came after the Kremlin announced that the Russian leader had notified French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz by phone that he would soon recognize the LPR and DPR.

"Vladimir Putin informed [Macron and Scholz] about the results of the expanded meeting of the Security Council of the Russian Federation, which considered the current situation around Donbas in the context of the State Duma's decision on the recognition of the Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics," the Kremlin said. "Today, the leadership of the DPR and LPR 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 Kremlin noted that Macron and Scholz "expressed their disappointment with this development" but still "indicated their readiness to continue contacts." Last week, France's foreign minister said he would view any recognition of DPR and LPR as "an attack without weapons."

In his address on Monday, Putin denounced Western nations--particularly the United States--for pouring weapons into Ukraine and reiterated his view that Ukraine joining NATO would represent a serious security threat to Russia.

The situation is "like having a knife against our throat," argued Putin, who said that Russia has "a right to take countermeasures to enhance our own security."

Following Putin's announcement, the White Housecalled the move a "blatant violation" of international agreements signed by Moscow and announced it would move swiftly to impose trade restrictions on the eastern areas of Ukraine.

In a statement, press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden would be signing an executive order to "prohibit new investment, trade, and financing by U.S. persons to, from, or in the so-called DNR and LNR regions of Ukraine." The statement said the order from Biden would also "provide authority to impose sanctions on any person determined to operate in those areas of Ukraine," but stipulated these measures were separate from others that would be imposed against Russia if it was to "further invade" Ukraine.

Shortly ahead of Putin's speech, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba characterized the Russian president's expected move as an escalation but added that "it's exactly now that we all should calmly focus on de-escalation efforts."

"No other way," he wrote on Twitter.

Writing in the Financial Times on Monday, economist and Columbia University professor Jeffrey D. Sachs put himself among those calling for a diplomatic solution, including an agreement by the U.S. to compromise on NATO expansion.

"As misguided as the Russian actions are," argued Sachs, "American intransigence regarding Nato enlargement is also utterly misguided and risky. True friends of Ukraine, and of global peace, should be calling for a U.S. and NATO compromise with Russia--one that respects Russia's legitimate security interests while fully backing Ukraine's sovereignty."

Putin's decision Monday came shortly after he and Biden--after speaking with Macron--agreed "in principle" to hold a summit on Ukraine amid global fears of a conflict involving the U.S. and Russia.

Neither Putin nor Biden committed to a specific date for such a meeting, but the prospect of continued dialogue left open the possibility of averting a war involving two nations that together possess more than 90% of the world's nuclear weapons.

"The presidents believe it is important to intensify efforts to find solutions through diplomatic means," the Kremlin said following Putin's conversation with Macron.

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