Most Russians believed that the first move of Donald Tramp as the President of the US will be removing sanctions against Russia. The latest actions and statements of the members of the new American administration showed that Russian expectations were wrong. On February 15, Trump wrote in his Twitter:
“Crimea was TAKEN by Russia during the Obama Administration. Was Obama too soft on Russia?”
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin immidiately ordered Russian media to stop praising Trump. Many Russians thought that this Putin’s order is not sufficient enough to answer the Trump’s statement and that Putin’s next step should unavoidably be some kind of provocation making Trump show if he is really capable of being tougher then former President Barack Obama was.
And Putin fulfilled expectations of those Russians.
On Saturday February 18, Putin signed an executive order to recognize passports and other documents issued by the self-proclaimed authorities of the separatist Russian-backed Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic in eastern Ukraine.
A Washington Post article stressed that the Putin’s move “will provide an early test of the Trump administration’s ability to manage the three-year-old conflict as it seeks to reassure allies that it will continue to counterbalance Russian influence in Eastern Europe.”
Putin’s order was made at a very specific moment: it was the next day after President Poroshenko of Ukraine at the 53rd Munich Conference on Security Policy urged the leaders of Western countries not to support Putin’s anti-Ukrainian activity. The same day, February 18, about a thousand of citizens of Ukrainian capital Kiev went to streets to commemorate those who were killed during the Maidan revolution in 2014.
Putin’s new order is granting visa-free travel to anyone living in the self-declared separatist republic in eastern Ukraine and recognizing all documents issued by the separatists’ officials.
Russian TV news informed Russians that for humanitarian reasons the people of separatist Ukrainian regions will be granted temporary rights for traveling to Russia during the time of conflict including and recognition of such documents as “IDs, academic certificates, birth certificates, marriage or divorce certificates, documents evidencing name changes, death certificates, transport registration certificates, and vehicle license plates, issued by corresponding local authorities…”
Russian TV coverage didn’t mention only one detail: Putin also ordered recognition of passports issued by the separatists’ authorities.
Here are the photographs of a Russian passport and a Donetsk People’s Republic passport. Both of them carry two-headed eagle – the emblem of Russia. The both photographs are copied from the official site of Donetsk People Republic. Separatists not only openly proclaimed their belonging to Russia; they stressed this fact in their official presentations.
Igor Carpenter, the head of government of self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic made an official statement concerning the decree of the Russian President. Carpenter said that Vladimir Putin’s decree is “another proof that in reality our country is a state” and it is a step toward the international recognition of its sovereignty.
He stated: “We believe that our future is inextricably linked with Russia, we are an integral part of the Russian world and the signing of this document by Putin is the proof of it”.
Oleksandr Turchynov, secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, stated: “This step by Kremlin completely destroys the Minsk process and is equal to Russia’s statement about an exit from that process.”
President of Ukraine Poroshenko on his official Facebook page called the Putin’s decree “proof of occupation” of the region and the violation of international law.
Yuri Butusov, a well known Ukrainian journalist and the Chief Editor of the website Tsenzor.NET, wrote:
“The most important thing is that Russia had actually recognized the Kremlin-appointed warlords authorities. Russia de facto unilaterally recognized that the occupied areas are not governed by Ukraine, but ruled by some “local” power. This is an obvious step in the escalation of the war. It is Russian rude violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty over the occupied areas…
“Russia indicates that it will not release the Donbas and will not stop the war voluntarily. This decree is an instrument of pressure on Ukraine, which can clearly be interpreted as annexation.” (Http: //censor.net.ua/n428585).
A prominent Russian journalist Dmitri Oreshkin tried to analyze the situation:
“I think this is the result of Putin’s disappointment in Trump. When Trump came to power, unjustified hope that we will come to agreement with him, because he is the man who depends on us, immediately appeared. Russian expectations were quite simple: forget about Crimea and remove the sanctions.
“While it was hoped that this window of opportunity might somehow become reality, Putin behaved gently. Then it became clear that Trump’s reputation is tarnished, that even if Trump wanted to improve relations with Putin, he needs to stay as far from Russia as possible, because any his positive movement toward Putin’s side will be regarded as an attempt to pay for the assistance Kremlin, according to the United States, provided to Trump during the presidential campaign. As a consequence of closing of the window of opportunity, two feelings started to prevail in Kremlin: shame and ‘I will do what I want.’
“The separatists’ Republics are officially not recognized, but their passports are admitted. That is actually nonsense. If one does not recognize the diplomatic status of a state, how can one recognize its passports? This is a signal to the Americans and the West: ‘I’m ready for more. If you want me to behave tougher, I can.’”
The first reaction of the West is clearly negative.
Secretary-General of OSCE Lamberto Zannier said in his interview on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference: “The abrupt Russian move is a setback for efforts to end the war that has killed more than 9,750 people since April 2014…”
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, speaking to reporters in Munich, stated that Putin’s order was “more evidence of the Russian occupation and Russia’s violation of international law.”
Putin obviously is waiting to see what will be the next move of Donald Trump.