“The scenario of South Ossetia”: the danger of recognition by the Kremlin of passports DND and LNR

Photo: Sergey Konkov / TASS

A presidential decree on Saturday actually legalized in Russia the documents of the breakaway republics of Donbass. RBC understood the reaction of the parties and the possible consequences of this decision

Legalization of passports

On Saturday, February 18 the website of the Kremlin published the decree of President Vladimir Putin on provisional recognition in Russia of the documents issued to citizens of Ukraine and persons without citizenship on the territory of certain districts in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions. This rule will be in effect until the resolution of the conflict in these regions of Ukraine.

Now Russia has recognized not only the documents of these citizens, but and registration marks of the vehicles stated in the decree. These measures are explained by “protection of the rights and freedoms of man and citizen”, in adopting them, the head of state was guided by “principles and norms of international humanitarian law.”

In the first paragraph of the decree the list of legalized in Russia documents: identity cards, diplomas, birth documentation and proof of professional qualifications, the paper on the conclusion and termination of marriage, death certificate. All these documents can be issued by “the relevant authorities are actually acting on territories of the mentioned districts,” that is, in fact, structures of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics.

In addition, according to the text of the decree, the citizens of Ukraine and persons without citizenship may enter the country with these documents to Russia and leave her without a visa.

The Russian government instructed to take the necessary measures to implement this decree. Measures are “temporary, pending a political settlement of the situation in certain districts of Donetsk and Lugansk regions of Ukraine based on the Minsk agreements”.

In early February, came the investigation of RBC on a tacit recognition of Russia passports of DNR and LNR. After that, the press Secretary of the President Dmitry Peskov said that it is “not the official recognition of the passports,” and “on certain decisions, which could be municipal, local authorities and various companies, based solely on humanitarian considerations.”

“Norman format”

Putin’s decree came the day of the Munich negotiations in “Norman format” level of foreign Ministers of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany. The first since November last year, the meeting of foreign Ministers “Norman four” lasted about an hour. The Ministers supported the agreement of the contact group in Ukraine on the beginning of the truce from the 20th of February, said the Minister of foreign Affairs of Russia Sergey Lavrov.

Russian and Ukrainian Ministers expressed their commitment to the plan, aimed at reducing tensions in Eastern Ukraine and agreed to continue political negotiations, said following the meeting foreign Minister of Germany, Sigmar Gabriel. According to him, without a ceasefire and withdrawal of heavy weapons, the political process will not move forward. The Ministers agreed to hold a meeting in a few weeks.

Before the meeting, Lavrov spoke at the Munich conference, where he said that regaining control of Kiev over the border with Russia is possible only after the implementation of the Minsk agreements. In Kiev said earlier that control of the border (part of it is controlled by the militia) should be handed over to Ukrainian border guards to how to “separate regions of Donbass” elections would be held.

The sudden decision

In the state Duma called Putin’s decision “an important sign of Russia’s support of the DND and LNR”. As stated by a member of the parliamentary Committee on international Affairs Sergei Zheleznyak (fraction “United Russia”), it should be “strong evidence for a reasonable part of the Ukrainian and international community of the futility of the attempts of military solution for the conflict in the Donbas” (quote on the website of the party).

According to the source RBC, close to the Russian diplomatic circles, “this decision is simply a legal registration of the fact that it was”. “On further steps for the recognition of the DNI and the LC is out of question”, — he stressed.

“In fact [in Russia] for the documents and license plate [DPR and LPR], and so all looked the other way,” confirmed RBC’s former chief of staff of the Ministry of defence DND Eldar Hasanov.

The issue of recognition of documents of the DNI and LC are not discussed in any negotiations, said the source RBC, close to the diplomatic circles. According to him, the decision was made in the Kremlin without any consultation.

The fact that the issue of recognition of documents was not raised at the meeting, “Norman Quartet,” Lavrov confirmed. “No, the question was not raised. I don’t think anyone sees this as a change in position (of Russia to the republics of Donbass — approx. ed)” — quoted TASS the head of the foreign Ministry.

This is a logical step for the Russian President in the face of continuing Ukraine’s “policy of genocide against the inhabitants of DNR and LNR,” said RBC analyst Alexei Chesnakov, a close to aide to the Russian President Vladislav Surkov. According to him, the constant shelling of the DPR and LPR by the Ukrainian army, economic and humanitarian blockade of the Republic, the actual rejection of the implementation of the political provisions of the Minsk agreements and the “aggressive rhetoric” of the Ukrainian officials against the residents of Donetsk and Lugansk led to today’s decree of Putin.

“If the Ukrainian side will not cease to continue its irresponsible policy and will not implement the Minsk agreement, Russia will make further steps towards the DNI and the LC. Including their recognition,” predicts Chesnakov.

The recognition of the passports responded promptly to the head of the LC and the DNI. “Today is another step brought the Republic to the international recognition of our sovereignty”, — said the leader LNR Igor Carpentry. “If the Motherland loudly and boldly support our fight, so we fight fair. It means that our sacrifices are not in vain,” — told RIA Novosti the head of the DND Alexander Zakharchenko.

The “shocking effect”

Russia’s decision is a violation of international law, said the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko. “For me it’s another proof of Russian occupation and Russian violations of international law,” the Ukrainian President said after talks with Vice-President Mike Pence in Munich.

Russian decree refutes the statement of Peskova of 3 February that Russia does not officially recognize the passports of DNR and LNR, said “Interfax-Ukraine” with reference to Irina Friz, a member of Parliament and former press Secretary of the Ukrainian President. “Such a step is evidence that social tensions in the occupied territories is growing along with dissatisfaction with the Russian policy, the Kremlin is throwing a bone to calm the population of the occupied territories”, — said the MP.

The same was stated by the NSDC Secretary Oleksandr Turchynov. Vladimir Putin is a “legally recognized quasi-state terrorist groups”, which, “like a Fig leaf” covering the “Russian occupation of a part of Donbas,” Turchynov was quoted by his press service.

Information produced a “shocking effect” in Kiev, told RBC a source close to one of the leaders of the factions of the Verkhovna Rada. “It’s definitely not a step towards peace,” he said, adding that this can lead to serious aggravation of the situation.

Putin’s decree — “de facto recognition of the two separatist republics,” said Ukrainian political analyst Volodymyr Fesenko. As the political scientist said in comments to RBC, “the military escalation is unlikely, but it certainly makes the political implementation of the Minsk agreements actually impossible.” The expert stressed that Ukraine will never recognize the decree of Putin, more seriously complicate the already actually stalled the talks in Minsk.

The risks of sanctions

DNR and LNR have not received recognition by member States of the UN. Ukraine has recognized the formation of a “terrorist”. According to the decree of the President of the United States No. 13 660 6 March 2014, bans and freezing of assets of individuals and legal entities threaten responsible for “undermining democratic processes and institutions in Ukraine and the threat to peace, security, sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

As previously stated RBC associate of the Washington law firm Bryan Cave LLP cliff burns, specializing in the issues of sanctions, recognition of passports DND and LNR can be considered to be undermining the sovereignty of Ukraine and to serve as a basis for sanctions against Russian officials and airlines that accept these documents. Although the new President of the United States Donald trump is more likely that new sanctions against Russia will not be introduced, said burns.

“The European Union will consider that Putin’s decision as a step on the escalation of the conflict, but the Russian side has a lot of options and time to prove that he was necessary and was done for humanitarian reasons,” said RBC scientific Director of the German-Russian forum Alexander Rahr. According to him, the humanitarian aspect of this decision can prevent the introduction against Russia new sanctions.

The humanitarian considerations explain the purpose of the decree on the presidential website. And the same considerations investigation of RBC on the informal recognition of passports previously commented on a source in the Executive branch.

Any unilateral solution to the conflict can escalate even if the rational arguments in favor of this decision, said in comments to RBC’s head of foreign policy directions of Center for strategic research Sergey Utkin. There is a risk not only of aggravation in the conflict zone, but also, for example, the introduction by Ukraine of the visa regime with Russia, warns expert.

“A lot will depend on how the parties read the document: it says that the measure is temporary and indicates commitment to the Minsk agreements,” says Utkin.

The decree of the Kremlin can be a response to recent statements by Washington about the need to return the Crimea to Ukraine, said the political scientist Nikolay Mironov. In his view, Russia shows its readiness to be integrated with the DPR and LPR until the recognition of the Republic. “At the same time, we are ready to negotiate, so the Kremlin mouth Peskov gave a rebuke to [the head of the DND Alexander] Zakharchenko, has admitted sharp statements [about the willingness to “walk to Kyiv.”]. Moscow is still “believes” in trump, but we are ready for the tougher steps — that’s the essence of the decree”, — says the analyst.

The expert of the Moscow juridical Academy Paul Kalinichenko says, the recognition by Russia of passports DND and LNR is due to the elimination of statelessness, and therefore it should not entail sanctions. “To recall the analogy, you have a lot to think about, because most of Russia gives out passports to citizens of Abkhazia and South Ossetia,” said Kalinichenko.

The experience of Abkhazia and South Ossetia

16 APR 2008 the President of Russia Vladimir Putin has instructed the government regarding the settlement of relations with Abkhazia and South Ossetia. One of the measures taken was the recognition of documents issued to individuals, the actual authorities of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The list includes a passport issued by the authorities had not yet recognized republics to its citizens.

The solution, as in the case of passports the DNI and the LC, due to humanitarian considerations. “Over the years of the protracted conflicts, the residents of these unrecognized republics have appeared in a distress. They have been denied the universal right to a decent life and sustainable development”, — stated in the message of the foreign Ministry.

“The recognition of passports, in essence, should mean the recognition of our Republic from Russia. Not going to rush things, but we were hoping for such a consistent, progressive movement towards this goal,” commented Russia’s decision on 16 April 2008, the Minister of foreign Affairs of Abkhazia Sergey Shamba.

The independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Russia recognized in August 2008 after the military conflict in South Ossetia.

With the participation of Sergey Vitko

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