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Ukraine: Scholz warns Putin against recognizing rebels

February 21, 2022

Germany has urged Russia not to recognize the separatist regions in eastern Ukraine as independent. Meanwhile, Russia claimed it killed five Ukrainian "saboteurs." DW has the latest.

Ukrainian soldier walks past a wall damaged by a mortar hit
Fighting in eastern Ukraine continues to escalateImage: Vadim Ghirda/AP/dpa/picture alliance/dpa/AP

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has urged Russian President Vladimir Putin not to recognize two breakaway regions of eastern Ukraine as independent.

Doing so would be "a gross contradiction of the Minsk agreement for a peaceful settlement of the conflict in east Ukraine and a unilateral breach of these deals from the Russian side," Scholz said in a phone call with the Russian leader.

He also called on Moscow to deescalate tensions by pulling back its troops from the border with Ukraine. 

Following the conversation with Putin, the chancellery said Scholz was consulting with his "closest partners," including France and Ukraine.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell echoed Scholz's comments, telling reporters in Brussels that the bloc was "ready to react with a strong united front" if Russia were to recognize the two territories. 

Earlier on Monday, Putin said he was considering a request from the leaders of Luhansk and Donetsk to recognize their regions as independent. The two territories broke away from Kyiv in 2014.

DW's Vladimir Esipov on independence request

'Don't play with human lives,' Berlin tells Moscow

Germany's Foreign Minister has told Russia that dialogue is the only way of dealing with the escalating crisis in Ukraine.

Speaking ahead of a meeting of European Union foreign ministers on Monday, Annalena Baerbock had a message for the Russian head of state. "I urgently call on the Russian government, on the Russian president: Don't play with human lives," said Baerbock.

She pointed to the recent increase in fighting in eastern Ukraine, and an extension of military drills involving Russia and Belarus.

"What we have seen over the last 72 hours in terms of attacks, violent disputes is really concerning," Baerbock said.

"The responsibility lies with the Russian government which is why I call urgently on the Russian government: Come back to the negotiating table. It is in your hands."

Ukraine's breakaway regions

Russian military claims five 'saboteurs' killed

On Monday Russia's military said that troops and border guards had killed five "saboteurs" who had infiltrated Russian territory from Ukraine, according to the Russian Interfax news agency.

"Five violators of the Russian Federation's border from a sabotage and reconnaissance group were eliminated in an armed clash," the Russian Southern Federal District said.

It went on to say that "no Russian Armed Forces and Federal Security Service members have been hurt."

According to AFP news agency citing the Russian military, the incident occurred near the village of Mityakinskaya in the Rostov region at 06:00 am (07:00 UTC).

DW's Nick Connolly reports from Kyiv

Ukraine has labeled the report fake news and said that there weren't any of its troops in the Rostov area at the time.

The Ministry of Defence also denied Russian claims that it had shelled a border checkpoint. It posted a denial on Twitter saying: "The enemy continues to use propaganda methods of conducting information warfare in order to accuse the Armed Forces and escalate the situation." 

Ukraine calls for urgent UN Security Council talks

Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Monday announced that he had requested member states of the UN Security Council to convene an urgent meeting.

The announcement came shortly after Russian President Vladimir Putin said that he would make a decision on Monday over requests to recognize  two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine.

Kuleba said he was acting on the instructions of the president to "discuss urgent actions aimed at de-escalation, as well as practical steps to guarantee the security of Ukraine."

EU imposes new sanctions over Crimea elections

The EU has slapped sanctions on five people who were involved in Russian parliamentary elections in Crimea in September 2021. The Ukrainian peninsula was annexed by Moscow in 2014.

According to an EU statement, the individuals are members of the state Duma, Russia's parliament, who were elected to represent Crimea and the city of Sevastopol. The head and deputy head of Sevastopol's electoral commission were also targeted.

The statement said the individuals were "actively supporting actions and implementing policies that undermine or threaten the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine."

The bloc has already sanctioned 193 people and 48 people over the territorial integrity of Ukraine. Those targeted have their assets frozen and are subject to an EU travel ban.

East Ukraine breakaway leaders seek Russian recognition

The leaders of east Ukraine's self-proclaimed republics on Monday asked Russian President Vladimir Putin to recognize them as independent.

"I ask you to recognise the sovereignty and independence of the Luhansk People's Republic," separatist leader Leonid Pasechnik said in a video broadcast on Russian state television.

The head of the Donetsk People's Republic, Denis Pushilin made a similar request.Pushilin also called on all men living in the territory to fight against Ukrainian troops. 

Putin said that the requests were being considered in a meeting with his security council. 

"Our goal is to listen to our colleagues and determine our next steps in this direction, bearing in mind both the appeals of the leaders of the DNR (Donetsk People's Republic) and LNR (Lugansk People's Republic) to recognise their independence," Putin said.

There is concern that if formal recognition is granted, Russia could send troops directly into both regions.

Putin convenes unscheduled Russian security council meeting

Russia President Vladimir Putin headed a meeting involving the country's top defence and security officials on Monday. Putin said that the West is using Ukraine to threaten Russian security.

"The use of Ukraine as an instrument of confrontation with our country poses a serious, very big threat to us," Putin said, adding that Moscow's key concern was "not confrontation, but security."

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said during the meeting that talks would be taking place with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday, according to Russian media agency TASS.

Lavrov will also be meeting French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian in Paris on Friday to discuss the situation in Ukraine.

Mathias Bölinger reports from Kramatorsk

'No specific plans' for summit — Russian presidency

Foreign ministers from EU states are set to discuss the Ukraine crisis after it emerged US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin, had in principle, agreed to talks on the matter. Russian news agency Interfax cited Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying, "there are no concrete plans for that yet."

Peskov pointed to talks Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is due to have with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken later in the week.

"We assume that a meeting between Lavrov and his American counterpart is possible this week. We also do not rule out contacts between Russian and French ministers," Peskov told reporters.

EU says talks 'to avoid war' needed

The EU's head of foreign policy, Josep Borrell said he welcomed any possibility of continued dialogue in a bid to avoid war.

"Summit meetings, at the level of leaders, at the level of ministers, whatever format, whatever way of talking and sitting at the table and trying to avoid a war, are badly needed," Borrell said upon arrival in Brussels, according to the Reuters news agency.

He warned that that the bloc had completed work on a package of sanctions in the event of a Russian invasion.

"The work is done. We are ready," Borrell said.

Shelling intensifies in eastern Ukraine

Russia rejects 'kill list' claims

Spokesman in the Russian presidency Dmitry Peskov denied claims that Moscow had compiled a list of Ukrainians who would be killed following an invasion, dismissing the allegations as "fake" according to Russian news agency Interfax.

"It's a lie. I know that it is absolute fiction. There is no such list. It's a fake," Peskov was reported as saying.

The US ambassador to the UN, Bathsheba Nell Crocker previously warned in a letter that Russia had compiled lists of Ukrainians who would be "killed or sent to camps," the Washington Post reported.

"Specifically we have credible information that indicates Russian forces are creating lists of identified Ukrainians to be killed or sent to camps following a military occupation," the letter stated.

Russia has repeatedly denied claims that it intends to invade Ukraine.

Ukraine: 'We don't respond to their fire'

EU finalizes adoption of €1.2 billion loan to Ukraine

The EU on Monday gave a €1.2 billion ($1.36 billion) loan the greenlight, "to foster stability in Ukraine."

The Council of the European Union finalized the adoption of the loan, just 21 days after it was presented as a proposal.

"The EU has acted swiftly and decisively to help Ukraine. Within 21 days, we completed the necessary work, which means that €1.2 billion macro-financial assistance can now reach Ukraine," Bruno Le Maire, French Minister for Economic Affairs, Finance and Recovery, said in a statement.

"Current geopolitical tensions are having a detrimental effect on Ukraine's economic and financial stability," the EU statement read.

Lufthansa suspends flights to Kyiv

German national carrier Lufthansa, said it is suspending flights to and from Kyiv.

The airline said the decision "affects all departures from Monday, 21 February until 28 February 2022."

Lufthansa also said the situation was being closely monitored and would "decide on further flights at a later date."

The German carrier joins various other European airlines who have made the decision to suspend flights amid heightened tensions in Ukraine.

Air France canceled its flights to Kyiv on Tuesday as a "precautionary measure."

Ukraine's infrastructure minister said that 10 airlines had made adjustments to their schedules.

"The current cancellation of flights by a number of foreign airlines is dictated solely by the information aggravation of the situation, and not by real changes in flight safety," Oleksander Kubrakov told a news briefing.

Kubrakov said that Ukraine International Airlines (UIA) had increased capacity with more flights from Kyiv to Munich and Geneva.

kb/dj (AFP, AP, dpa, Interfax, Reuters)