Vladimir Putin delivers speech recognizing the independence of two Russian-backed Ukrainian territories
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday delivered a provocative speech in which he recognized the independence of two Russian-backed regions in Eastern Ukraine and declared Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s government a “puppet” of the United States.
The address was the latest smoke signal billowing out of Moscow that Putin appears poised to invade Ukraine perhaps as soon as this week.
In response, President Joe Biden’s administration said that it will impose economic sanctions on Donetsk and Luhansk.
After the speech, Putin was shown on state television “signing decrees recognizing the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics, which were created after Russia fomented a separatist war in eastern Ukraine in 2014,” The New York Times reported. “Putin also signed ‘friendship and mutual assistance’ treaties, raising the possibility that Russia could move some of the forces it has built up around Ukraine’s borders into those territories.”
Putin portrayed an independent and democratic Ukraine as a threat to Russia’s sovereignty and to its population. He also said that Ukraine will be responsible for whatever pain Russia ultimately chooses to impose on the former Soviet satellite state.
Russia has accused Ukraine of carrying out shellings against civilian targets in Donetsk and Luhansk, which Ukraine denies and the West believes were part of false-flag operations carried out by Russian separatists to serve as a pretext for an all-out assault.
“As for those who captured and is holding on to power in Kyiv, we demand that they immediately cease military action,” Putin said at the end of his speech. “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.”
But Putin remained mum on what his true intentions are regarding a potential military offensive against Ukraine, which the US and its allies in the North American Treaty Organization have determined is imminent, according to the Times.
“For instance, he did not address the fact that the separatist ‘people’s republics’ claim about three times as much territory as they currently control,” the Times explained.
“Some analysts have speculated that Mr. Putin could use Russian troops to capture more Ukrainian territory on behalf of those republics. But his veiled threat against Kyiv at the end of his speech signaled he was prepared to threaten Mr. Zelensky’s government directly — a scenario that American officials have said is a possibility given the size of Mr. Putin’s troop buildup to Ukraine’s north, east and south,” the paper noted.
Further fueling concerns that Putin intends to use the 150,000 troops he has stationed along the Ukrainian border for a ground invasion were remarks given by Viktor Zolotov, the head of Russia’s National Guard.
Zolotov suggested that Russia’s security requires expanding its grasp into additional regions of Ukraine.
“We don’t have a border with Ukraine — we have a border with America, because they are the masters in that country,” Zolotov said. “Of course we must recognize the republics, but I want to say that we must go farther in order to defend our country.”
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