Putin says considering Ukraine separatists' independence request

The rebel leaders of Donetsk and Lugansk made a coordinated appeal to Putin for Moscow to recognise them earlier on Monday
Last Updated 21 February 2022, 16:53 IST

President Vladimir Putin said Monday he would make a decision "today" on recognising the independence of east Ukraine's rebel republics, after Russia's top officials made impassioned speeches in favour of the move.

"I have heard your opinions. The decision will be taken today," the Russian leader said at an unscheduled Kremlin security council meeting.

A Russian recognition of the breakaway Donetsk and Lugansk territories would bury a fragile peace process regulating the long-running conflict in eastern Ukraine.

Western countries have warned Russia not to recognise the separatist republics, with the US saying it would constitute a "gross violation of international law."

Putin listened to Russia's top officials taking turns to make the case for recognition for an hour and a half at the meeting in the Kremlin.

The Russian leader sat behind a table as he called up his security, defence, intelligence and other top officials one by one to make their case.

The meeting, which took place in the early afternoon, was aired on state television.

The highly unusual conference, included Putin's scolding his own spy chief, who had mistakenly said he was for incorporating the republics into Russia.

"I support the proposal to incorporate the DNR and LNR into Russia," Sergei Naryshkin said.

"That is not what we are talking about and discussing, we are talking about recognising their independence," Putin said, before telling him to "be clear."

"I support the proposal to recognise their independence," Naryshkin said, nervously fixing his blunder.

Earlier on Monday the rebel leaders of east Ukraine's Donetsk and Lugansk made a coordinated appeal to Putin for Moscow to recognise them.

The Russian parliament has also asked Putin to recognise the pro-Moscow separatist territories, which declared themselves independent of Kyiv's rule after Ukraine's 2014 pro-EU revolution.

The looming decision over recognition of the territories comes as the Ukraine conflict escalated sharply on Monday, with Moscow claiming it had killed five Ukrainian "saboteurs" that crossed its border.

Ukraine said "not a single one of our soldiers has crossed the border with the Russian Federation, and not a single one has been killed today."

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(Published 21 February 2022, 15:41 IST)

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