Britain warns Russia not to recognise breakaway Ukraine regions

Ukrainian soldiers at a front-line position near Katerynivka, in eastern Ukraine, on Feb 16, 2022. PHOTO: NYTIMES

LONDON (AFP) - The British government on Thursday (Feb 17) warned the Kremlin against formally recognising two pro-Moscow separatist territories in Ukraine, days after the Russian parliament voted to urge President Vladimir Putin to do so.

"The Duma's request that Vladimir Putin recognises the Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Luhansk as independent shows flagrant disregard for Russia's commitments under the Minsk agreements," British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said in a statement.

The agreements - named after the Belarus capital where they were struck in 2014 and 2015 - sought to halt the war between the Ukraine government and the secessionists and remain the only existing framework for resolving the conflict peacefully.

"If this request were accepted, it would represent a further attack on Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, signal an end to the Minsk process and demonstrate a Russian decision to choose a path of confrontation over dialogue," Truss said.

"We urge Russia to end its pattern of destabilising behaviour against Ukraine and to implement the commitments it has freely signed up to, including the Minsk agreements."

Russia's parliament, the Duma, voted on Tuesday to urge Putin to recognise the independence of the two Ukrainian separatist regions, amid tensions with the West over Moscow's troop build-up nearby.

Russia has issued passports to hundreds of thousands of residents of the separatist-held enclaves, where Ukraine government troops have been battling insurgents in a conflict that has claimed more than 14,000 lives since 2014.

The Duma proposal prompted strong condemnation from the United States on Wednesday, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken saying it would "constitute a gross violation of international law".

Meanwhile, in Kyiv, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba warned that if Russia moved to recognise the rebel territories as independent "Russia de facto and de jure will withdraw from the Minsk agreements with all the attendant consequences".

However, at a heated United Nations Security Council earlier on Thursday, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Vershinin blamed the current crisis on Kiev's alleged violations of the cease-fire agreement reached in the 2015 Minsk accords.

"Ukraine stubbornly refuses to implement the provisions of the Minsk Agreements," he told the Council, accusing Kiev of repeated attacks on the region causing "thousands of victims."

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