Two pro-Russian breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine -- Donetsk and Luhansk -- had declared themselves as independent 'people's republics' in 2014.
Amid escalating tensions and triggering concerns globally, the Russian Federation on February 21 recognised two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine -- Donetsk and Luhansk -- as independent states. These two areas, collectively known as the Donbass region, had declared themselves as independent ‘people's republics’ in 2014.
However, they were not recognised and considered a part of Ukraine by the rest of the world, including by Russia. Nonetheless, the Kremlin never shied away from supporting separatists in the Donbass region. While Moscow denied being a party to this conflict, it helped the region with financial aid, COVID-19 vaccines, and by issuing at least 8,00,000 Russian passports to Donbass residents.
Now that Russian President Vladimir Putin has recognised the two regions, world leaders fear that Moscow may now send military forces into the separatist regions openly using this argument that it is intervening as an ally to protect them.
Soon after Russia's announcement, reactions poured in from across the world.
US President Joe Biden
According to the White House, Biden "strongly condemned Russian President Putin’s decision to purportedly recognise the independence of the eastern regions of Ukraine." He assured his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskyy of swift action if Russia launches an attack.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said: "This decision represents a complete rejection of Russia’s commitments under the Minsk agreements, directly contradicts Russia’s claimed commitment to diplomacy, and is a clear attack on Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity." He added: "The US has an obligation not to recognise a new 'state' created through the threat or use of force, as well as an obligation not to disrupt another state’s borders."
French President Emmanuel Macron: In a tweet, Macron said, "Russia is violating its commitments and undermining Ukraine’s sovereignty. I condemn this decision. I have asked for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council and European sanctions."
En reconnaissant les régions séparatistes de l'est de l'Ukraine, la Russie viole ses engagements et porte atteinte à la souveraineté de l'Ukraine. Je condamne cette décision. J’ai demandé une réunion d'urgence du Conseil de sécurité des Nations unies et des sanctions européennes.— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) February 21, 2022
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson: Johnson has also condemned the move, saying: "It’s a flagrant violation of the sovereignty and integrity of Ukraine... The United Kingdom will continue to do everything we can to stand by the people of Ukraine with a very robust package of sanctions."
Meanwhile, UK's Foreign Secretary Liz Truss tweeted, "Tomorrow we will be announcing new sanctions on Russia in response to their breach of international law and attack on Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity."
Tomorrow we will be announcing new sanctions on Russia in response to their breach of international law and attack on Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity.— Liz Truss (@trussliz) February 21, 2022
German Foreign Minister Christian Lindner: The German Foreign Minister tweeted, "Putin is isolating himself to the detriment of the Russian people. It will result in NATO and the EU getting closer as communities of values. United in solidarity with Ukraine and trust in the law."
Mit dem Bruch des Völkerrechts isoliert sich #Putin zum Schaden des russischen Volkes. Er wird erreichen, dass #NATO und #EU als Wertegemeinschaften enger zueinander finden. Vereint in der Solidarität zur #Ukraine und im Vertrauen auf das Recht. CL— Christian Lindner (@c_lindner) February 21, 2022
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki: Morawiecki has called Russia's move "an act of aggression against Ukraine." He said, "The decision to recognise the self-proclaimed republics is a final rejection of dialogue and a flagrant violation of international law. It must be met with an unequivocal response in the form of immediate sanctions."
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg: Stoltenberg has said Russia's decision to recognise the breakaway regions "undermines Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, erodes efforts towards a resolution of the conflict, and violates the Minsk agreements, to which Russia is a party."
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen: Leyen has called the recognition of the two separatist regions in Ukraine a "blatant violation of international law and the Minsk agreements." He said, "The EU and its partners will react with unity, firmness, and with determination in solidarity with Ukraine."
Turkey's Foreign Ministry: While Turkey chose not to take any side on the issue, it asked its citizens to contact its embassy in Kyiv (Ukraine) when necessary soon after the decision.