02/24/2022 (Thu) 03:37:39
The move was condemned by Western countries at a marathon meeting of the United Nations Security Council, during which many speakers raised an alarm of a Russian invasion into Ukraine. The United States also responded by barring citizens from doing business with the rebel territories and warned of further sanctions, as did other allies.
Putin’s announcement came as more than 100,000 Russian soldiers remain stationed on the Ukrainian border, with tens of thousands more taking part in training exercises in neighbouring Belarus, amid accusations of attacks by the Ukrainian military on rebel positions, sparking fears that Russia will intervene on the rebels’ behalf and launch a campaign beyond areas already ruled by the separatists.
Ukraine has denied it is behind the attacks.
“Essentially, this represents a much less apocalyptic option than the kind of full-scale invasion the West has been predicting,” security expert Mark Galeotti told Al Jazeera.
“However, the key question would be whether this means recognising the pseudo-states, which would be politically aggressive but not necessarily lead to wider war, or whether Moscow would assert that they have a right to all of the Donbas region, including government-held areas,” Galeotti added.
“That would mean war.”
Up until now, Russia has denied it is a party to the east Ukrainian conflict, despite serving Russian soldiers having fought on the separatists’ side. Openly deploying the army on their behalf would breach the 1975 Helsinki Accords, which includes clauses on the “inviolability of frontiers” in Europe, and the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, in which Russia agreed to uphold the sovereignty of Ukraine.