Putin announced his decision to recognize Russian-occupied Donbas as independent in his evening address to Russian people. But an hour of lengthy historical explanations preceded, where Putin claimed that Ukrainian nation and state were “artificially created by Lenin” and “are part of Russian history.”
He also questioned the existence of Ukraine as a state calling it “a colony led by a puppet regime” and promising Ukraine to show “real decommunization,” thus likely implying to return Ukraine into its pre-1922 borders.
Latvia’s Foreign Minister was one of the first to comment about the speech, naming it “an hour of imperialism and chauvinism:”
“Those who rave about the need to make friends with Russia and Belarus and submit to Moscow’s policy of pretending to be dumb and deaf should watch the Russian President’s speech. An hour of imperialism and chauvinism.”
Putin recognized independence of Luhansk and Donetsk “People’s Republics” after the National Security and Defense Council
Putin’s speech and decision to openly recognize Donbas puppets that Russian forces occupied in 2014, comes after the meeting of the Russian Security and Defense Council (NSDC) that was broadcast online. During the meeting, members of the NSDC were persuading Putin to openly recognize the Russian proxy republics in Donbas.
Russian Minister of Internal Affairs Kolokoltsev Vladimir called on the Security Council:
“We should recognize these republics… but in the borders… before occupation by the Ukrainian army in 2014.”
This means he called that Russia should support the enlargement of so-called republics to the entire Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts, where such Ukrainian cities as Mariupol, Kramatorsk, Sloviansk, and others are located.
The National Security and Defense Council and Putin's speech itself were likely recorded in advance, despite being presented as a “live” meeting
The NSDC meeting was presented as an online event that took place after the appeals made by the heads of proxy Luhansk and Donetsk "Peoples Republics" ("LDNR") asking the Russian leader to recognized them as independent states.
However, it appears that the meeting was pre-recorded, taking place before relevant appeals by leaders of L/DNR were made. Just as in the case of the evacuation announcements by heads of Luhansk and Donetsk occupation administrations, pre-recorded one day before the "republics" started an escalation in the Donbas while accusing Ukraine of ramping up aggression.
The evidence for Putin's "live" Security Council's meeting being pre-recorded is that the "live broadcast" of security council started at 16:54, but Russia's Minister of Defense Sergey Shoigu's watch displayed 13:40, before the mentioned appeals of heads of Russia's puppet Donetsk and Luhansk "People's Republics" were released. Russian state RBC, for instance, reported on the appeals at 16:43.
This is additional proof that the actions of the occupational administrations are orchestrated from Moscow.
Moreover, Putin's speech appears to be pre-recorded as well: the watch on his hand appears to show 12:15, which means he signed the documents on recognizing the "LDNR" even before the NSDC council, was held. Officially, Putin was to deliberate on the council's appeal and announce his decision at 21:00.
It it likely that Putin's speech was prerecorded: the watch on his hand appears to show 12.15, which would mean the speech was recorded before the security council meeting, where Shoigu's watch showed 13.40 pic.twitter.com/Vz4OphtuyQ
— Euromaidan Press (@EuromaidanPress) February 21, 2022
The reason Latvia's Foreign Minister called the speech an "hour of imperialism and chauvinism"
Both Putin’s evening address and statements of Russian Security and Defense council fully fit into latest developments of Russian narrative about Ukraine that Euromaidan Press has analyzed earlier. Putin pushes a narrative portraying Ukraine as a “brotherly nation enslaved by the West” and a possible Russian invasion as a just reclamation of Russia’s sphere of influence.
Putin is not demanding some political compromises that can be achieved by talks but questions the very existence of Ukraine, its sovereignty and internal policy:
"As a result of Bolshevik policy, Soviet Ukraine emerged, which can be named after the Vladimir Ilyich Lenin. He is its author and architect..."
The Russian leader began his speech by saying that initially the population of Ukraine professed Orthodoxy and called itself "Russian," saying that the Ukrainian people did not exist historically.
In the address, Putin not only formally announced the decision but also, as per the Hybrid Warfare Analytical Group:
- portrayed Ukraine as a historical mistake with no tradition or right to sovereignty, claiming that it was, in full, “created by the USSR” and “Lenin was an architect of Ukraine”;
- threatened Ukraine with “showing real decommunization”, hinting attack on its existence as it rejects the Soviet legacy;
- promoted the image of Ukraine as a “failed state” under colonizing “external governance”;
- insisted Ukraine poses a military and terrorist threat against Russia, particularly in Crimea;
- repeated the message about NATO "deploying military bases in Ukraine" to threaten Russia;
- positioned Ukraine's intention to join NATO as a "direct threat to Russian security";
- blamed the West for intruding into Russia's sovereignty;
- promoted propagandistic fakes about "Ukraine's genocide against Donbas";
- called to ratify the agreements on friendship and mutual assistance with the so-called "republics."
Sanctions are said to follow
Chancellor Scholz called Putin an hour after the NSDC meeting, warning that if Russia recognizes "LDNR" it would be a clear one-sided violation of Minsk agreements by Russia. He said, sanctions will follow:
"If there is an annexation [of the territory of L/DNR], there will be sanctions. And if there is recognition, I will propose the imposition of sanctions, and decisions will be made by ministers," said the top EU diplomat.
Notably, Russian didn't officially annex the territories but declared their independence, although Russian troops are permanently stationed there.
Although Moscow has openly violated the Minsk agreements, The White House statement lists rather minor sanctions for this Russian move, namely to:
"prohibit new investment, trade, and financing by US persons to, from, or in the so-called DNR and LNR regions of Ukraine. This E.O. will also provide authority to impose sanctions on any person determined to operate in those areas of Ukraine. The Departments of State and Treasury will have additional details shortly. We will also soon announce additional measures related to today’s blatant violation of Russia’s international commitments.
To be clear: these measures are separate from and would be in addition to the swift and severe economic measures we have been preparing in coordination with Allies and partners should Russia further invade Ukraine."
However, it is likely that these sanctions are to be applied in addition to those envisioned for Russia's new invasion of Ukraine.
Russian troops again invade Ukraine, move through occupied Donetsk and Luhansk
Following the speech, Putin instructed the Russian Ministry of Defense to ensure that the Russian Armed Forces perform the functions of maintaining peace in the "republics" before concluding agreements with the "LNR" and "DNR."
Putin's decrees were published on Russia's official internet portal of legal information:
"In connection with the request of the head of the Donetsk People's Republic to the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation to ensure the implementation of the peacekeeping functions of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation on the territory of the Donetsk People's Republic before the conclusion of the agreement referred to in paragraph 3 of this Decree...
In connection with the request of the head of the Luhansk People's Republic to the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation to ensure the implementation of the peacekeeping functions of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation on the territory of the Luhansk People's Republic before the conclusion of the agreement referred to in paragraph 3 of this decree."
As of now, multiple local sources confirm on social media the movement of military columns through Donetsk and Luhansk during or immediately after Putin's TV address.
Users of a local Luhansk chat were discussing the current situation in the following way around 22:15:
- East: can everyone hear the equipment humming?
- At school 17 it's audible.
- The equipment's on move, it's clear, that's Russian brothers.
- At Molodizhnyi it's very much audible.
A few reports came from the borderline village of Uspenka, stating that military columns were entering the Russian-occupied territory of Donetsk Oblast from Russia, and from Shakhtarsk, lying on the way from the Russian border to Donetsk:
22:25 Now a column of equipment is moving from Shakhtarsk to Donetsk
22:40 40 minutes ago, a column passed towards Donetsk with lights off. Roaring engines, I couldn't count their number.
23:41 Another column of heavy equipment from Uspenka southwards
00:06 A column of BMPs (tracked infantry fighting vehicles, - Ed.) from Uspenka to the south (i.e. towards the sea of Azov, - Ed.), one after another
A video from Donetsk circulated on social media with comments that the equipment and personnel entered Donetsk during Putin's speech:
Во время выступления х..ла в Донецк вошла техника и автобусы с орками. pic.twitter.com/FM5N0jidiX
— hochu dodomu v UA (@hochu_dodomu) February 21, 2022
Other social media posts from locals reported the movement of the equipment through Donetsk and its suburb, Makiivka:
about 22:15 #Makiivka: passing by Galactica towards the center moved about 25 trucks towing howitzers
22:19 Donetsk circle road: another southbound column of some 20 tracked "boxes" (a slang term for tanks or other armored vehicles, - Ed.), some 10 Ural trucks with additions, maybe howitzers, and some 20 wheeled "boxes" of various sizes.
22:33 Donetsk: From Tochmash to Spartak moved at least 30 BMP, tactical sign: 61 in square
about 22:50 Makiivka: 30+ light armored vehicles from Krynychne crossing towards the Daki / circle road
Russian troops entering Donbas mean Donbas is now occupied not by "Russian-led militants" but openly by Russian regular army. That also means Russian direct withdrawal from Minsk agreements. Putin's decree presents the decision to enter troops to Donbas as a "function of maintaining peace:"