Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting with members of the government via a video link at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, Russia November 10, 2021. (Sputnik/Mikhail Metzel/Kremlin via Reuters)

Russian president Vladimir Putin on Monday recognized the independence of the eastern Ukrainian enclaves of Donetsk and Lugansk, which have have been under the de-facto control of pro-Russian separatists for years.

“The president of Russia said that he intended to sign the relevant decree in the near future,” the Kremlin announced on Monday. “The president of France and the Federal Chancellor of Germany expressed their disappointment with this development. At the same time, they indicated their readiness to continue contacts.”

In a wide-ranging speech shortly following the announcement, Putin claimed that Ukraine and Russia have a shared culture and history, and that Ukraine does not stand as a truly independent nation.

“Ukraine is not just a neighboring country to us, it is an inherent part of our own history, cultural, spiritual space,” Putin said, in remarks translated live on the Russian state-owned network RT. “The modern Ukraine was completely created by Russia. To be more exact, by Bolshevik communist Russia.”

Putin added that it is “important to understand” that Ukraine “never had a consistent tradition of being a true nation.”

To “those who seized power and keep the power in Kyiv, we demand to stop hostilities immediately,” Putin said, according to RT’s live translation. “Otherwise all the responsibility for the possibility for the continuation of the bloodbath will be on the consciousness of the regime in Kyiv.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the Biden administration had “anticipated a move like this from Russia” and prepared economic sanctions in response.

“President Biden will soon issue an Executive Order that will prohibit new investment, trade, and financing by U.S. persons to, from, or in the so-called DNR and LNR regions of Ukraine,” Psaki said in a statement. “We will also soon announce additional measures related to today’s blatant violation of Russia’s international commitments.”

Russia has amassed upwards of 150,000 troops on Ukraine’s borders and stationed fighter jets and missile batteries in neighboring Belarus, stoking fears of a potential Russian invasion of Ukraine. It is unclear what Putin’s next move will be after recognizing the breakaway regions of Ukraine as independent states.

“Russia has exerted efforts and still continues to make efforts to resolve all the complicated aspects and tragic developments by peaceful means, but we have what we have,” Putin said at a meeting of the Russian National Security Council earlier on Monday.

Putin added later on that “as I have said many times before, if Russia faces the threat of Ukraine being accepted into the North Atlantic Alliance, NATO, the threat against our country will increase.”

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken vowed last Wednesday to initiate a “swift and firm response” if Russia recognized the independence of Donetsk and Lugansk.

“Enactment of this resolution would further undermine Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, constitute a gross violation of international law, call into further question Russia’s stated commitment to continue to engage in diplomacy to achieve a peaceful resolution of this crisis,” Blinken said in a statement.

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