Russia will recognize the independence of two separatist enclaves inside Ukraine, defying efforts from the U.S. and its allies to tamp down the crisis in Eastern Europe, President Vladimir Putin confirmed in a national address Monday.
Mr. Putin reportedly told both French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz of his decision earlier in the day, which came after a morning of consultations with his top security aides at the Kremlin.
The Biden administration said the president and his aides are closely monitoring the situation, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has convened an emergency meeting of the country’s National Security and Defense Council to discuss the move.
Mr. Putin revealed the move at the end of a nearly hourlong address that rehashed many of what he said were grievances for Russia and pro-Russian elements inside Ukraine since the end of the Cold War.
“Ukraine has become a colony of puppets,” Mr. Putin said. “Ukrainians squandered not only everything we gave them during the Soviet Union times, but even everything they inherited from the Russian empire.”
He also attacked NATO for what he said was the Western military alliance’s refusal to take seriously Russian security “red lines” in the region.
The timing of the recognition, which follows on Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, is unclear. Nor was it clear whether diplomatic recognition was the prelude to a Russian military move to support the self-proclaimed “republics” in the far eastern Ukrainian regions around the cities of Donetsk and Luhansk.
The Ukrainian government swiftly denounced the moves and said the world was watching Russia’s aggression closely.
“Everyone realizes [the] consequences,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dymtro Kuleba said on Twitter. “A lot of emotions out there, but it’s exactly now that we all should calmly focus on de-escalation efforts. No other way.”
Russia and Ukraine have been engaged in a long-stalemated negotiation on resolving the insurgency in the two regions. Mr. Putin’s decision Monday would short-circuit that diplomacy and will almost certainly trigger sanctions from the U.S. and leading European powers.
Russia’s move stops short — for now — of a full-scale invasion of its neighbor that Washington was warning about, but will still bring sharp consequences.
“We call upon President Putin to respect international law and the Minsk agreements and expect him not to recognize the independence of Lugansk and Donetsk oblasts,” European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told journalists after a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels, according to the Reuters news agency.