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Russian parliament demands Putin recognize separatist regions of eastern Ukraine

Russian parliament demands Putin recognize separatist regions of eastern Ukraine

Russian parliamentarians attend a session of the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, in Moscow, Russia, on May 12, 2021. (Reuters) / Evgenia Novozinina / File Photo

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MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia’s lower house of parliament voted on Tuesday to demand that President Vladimir Putin recognize two Russian-backed separatist regions in eastern Ukraine as independent, the speaker of Russia’s lower house said.

The Duma’s move, if approved, could exacerbate a broader crisis over Russia’s military build-up near Ukraine that has fueled Western fears of a possible Moscow attack. Russia denies any plans to invade and accuses the West of hysteria.

Recognizing the unilaterally self-declared People’s Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk could end the peace process in Minsk in eastern Ukraine, where conflict between government forces and Moscow-backed separatists has killed 15,000 people.

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“Kiev does not adhere to the Minsk agreements. Our compatriots and compatriots living in the Donbass need our help and support,” State Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin wrote on social media.

Volodin, a member of the pro-Putin ruling United Russia party, said the appeal would be sent to the Kremlin immediately. It was not clear how long the Kremlin would take to review it.

“If the recognition decision is taken, Russia will de facto and de jure withdraw from the Minsk agreements with all the ensuing consequences,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told reporters.

Moscow describes the conflict in eastern Ukraine as a civil war, but Ukraine and the West say Russia is helping the separatists with its ground forces, a charge Moscow denies.

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Russia has issued more than 700,000 passports to residents of eastern Ukraine since separatists seized territory there in 2014 shortly after Russia’s annexation of Crimea, straining relations with Kiev and the West.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to comment on the substance of the appeal, saying that no decision had been made on it. But he added that the pro-Russian breakaway region known as Donbass was a major concern for the Russians.

He said that Russia has repeatedly demonstrated its commitment to the Minsk peace process and that it still wants to implement it.

Four-party peace talks were held in eastern Ukraine between Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany last week, but ended without a breakthrough.

After the talks, Ukraine said it would not succumb to pressure from Moscow to negotiate directly with the separatists, while Russia accused Kiev of making silly proposals. Read more

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(Additional reporting by Anastasia Tetereleva, Anton Zverev and Dmitry Antonov in Moscow and Natalia Zenets in Kiev; Written by Tom Palmforth. Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Angus McSwan

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