Donetsk and Luhansk recognised - annexation next?

Russia has recognised the territories in Ukraine controlled by pro-Russian separatists - the "people's republics" of Donetsk and Luhansk - as independent states. President Putin signed a decree to that effect on Monday, ordered the deployment of Russian troops to the Donbass regions and delivered a bellicose speech. Europe's media take very different views on what exactly he is trying to achieve.

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NV (UA) /

An abuser's farewell

Ultimately Putin's decision to recognise the separatist regions is a sign of weakness, writes investment banker Serhij Fursa in NV:

“Putin has given Ukraine a great gift. ... He has released it from the responsibility of complying with the Minsk agreements. In so doing he has given up trying to stuff his cancerous tumours into Ukraine's body and rule us through them. Putin has merely formalised what has been a fact for a long time. Now he has completely given up on Ukraine. And his speech, his crazy rhetoric, is just an abuser's farewell to a victim he can no longer restrain. This is a farewell. ... It was simply the only way to save face for a dictator who has no right to show weakness inside the country.”

Efimerida ton Syntakton (GR) /

Europe must negotiate seriously with Russia

Efimerida ton Syntakton sees Russia's recognition as pure tactics:

“The recognition is not an annexation - as with Crimea in 2014 - much less an invasion. Rather, it is a final move of aggressive diplomacy that creates a fait accompli and puts pressure on Kyiv, the US and Europe to finally sit down at the table and seriously discuss what the Kremlin really wants. The next 24 hours will be crucial, not only for the future of Ukraine and its people, but also for future peace and prosperity - especially in the energy sector.”

La Stampa (IT) /

Putin will hardly be content with Donbass

The question is no longer whether there will be a Russian invasion of Ukraine but how it will happen, La Stampa counters:

“The only thing that is certain is that Putin's statements cannot be trusted and that the Russian president, although he has repeatedly demonstrated his cynical rationality in foreign policy, from Syria to the Caucasus, from Kazakhstan to Libya to Mali, has lost this rationality when it comes to Ukraine. There are many signs that things are heading in a dangerous, even insane direction. In view of the Russian president's rambling press conference it would be naïve to assume that he will stop here. ... Clearly, Putin is not only interested in Donetsk and Lugansk but in Ukraine as a whole.”

Ekho Moskvy (RU) /

Now comes a strategic pause

Commenting in Echo of Moscow, political scientist Vladivslav Inosemtsev says Putin won't go any further for the time being:

“He is only willing to go as far as those boundaries where his moves won't meet with serious resistance. Russian soldiers were not deployed to kill Ukrainians, as they were in 2014. What happens next, I can't say either - but I'm sure the next act of this drama won't come any time soon. The external situation has to calm down and a 'new normality' must be established internally first. Only then will the preparations for the next special operation begin, as a result of which another neighbour will unexpectedly lose a piece of national territory.”

Ekho Moskvy (RU) /

Borders don't count anymore

After Putin's speech, states that used to be part of the Soviet Union must also be worried, writes Echo of Moscow:

“More serious even than the de facto declaration of war on Ukraine is the complete rejection of all the results of territorial border demarcations due to the disintegration of the USSR. The Central Committee of the Communist Party's decision of 1989 on the right to formal self-determination of the republics was described as wrong and detrimental. This was the root of the evil, the point where Russia took the wrong path. ... This is a declaration of territorial claims to all who at one time or another belonged (voluntarily or not) to the Soviet Union. So we return to the key question of 1991: Are we facing a 'Yugoslav scenario' or not? And all this just because Putin wants to sit in his chair forever.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

The resurrection of Greater Russia

With his speech on Monday the Russian president was by no means harking back to the days of the Soviet Union, La Repubblica comments:

“Vladimir Putin is challenging the world and rewriting history. He is offering his people an imperial vision so as to justify military intervention. He is not simply erasing the chapter opened with the dissolution of the USSR in 1991. He is turning the clock back exactly one century to 1922, thus questioning even the Bolshevik decisions that led to the creation of the Soviet Union. All wrong, because there is only one reality: Greater Russia, to which Ukraine has always belonged.”

Seznam Zprávy (CZ) /

Putin can't turn the clock back

Seznam Zprávy points out:

“Putin says that the West has broken its word [with Nato's eastward expansion] and must now comply with Russia's conditions. But he doesn't say that the Soviets and therefore the Russian side also made promises back in the days of the USSR. For example, that Moscow would establish a full democracy and that it would respect human rights in Russia. ... Putin, who entered the Kremlin at the turn of the millennium, has undoubtedly managed to give Russia back some of its superpower status. But he can't change history. At the end of 1991 the Soviet Union disintegrated, and with it the Cold War method of asserting power claims. If the Russian ruler doesn't want to admit this, he is losing his sense of reality.”

Club Z (BG) /

Things will not go further than Donbass

Club Z does not believe that the invasion of Ukraine by Russian troops will go beyond the separatist areas:

“With a large-scale attack on Ukraine, Russia would become a rogue state. This means isolation, in which Russia would become completely dependent on China. The economic sanctions in such a war would be crippling. Now the majority of Russians are simply poor. With the sanctions, however, they'll experience hunger. When the body bags of young Russian soldiers return from the battlefields, the Russian people will realise that their president has led them into a new Afghanistan and a new Chechnya. Does Putin really want that?”

El País (ES) /

Fight together for a multilateral world order

El País warns how important it is that the West continues to stand united:

“The Western democracies have managed to forge a commendable unity in the face of Moscow's challenge. ... It is crucial that this unity - which was noted with disappointment in Moscow and Beijing - persists in the face of the serious challenges that lie ahead. ... In this crisis not only the lives of Ukrainian citizens but also the world order are at stake. It can be a multilateral one based on international law, diplomacy and human rights, or a multipolar one based on the value of sheer power, spheres of influence and the relativisation of universal rights.”