Russia’s parliament voted on Feb. 15 to ask President Vladimir Putin to recognize Russian-occupied territories in Donbas as independent states.
Altogether, 351 of 450 lawmakers voted for the bill, which was tabled by the Communist Party of the Russian Federation.
Since the start of Russia's war against Ukraine in 2014, the Kremlin has been insisting that the Russian-led militants in the region are independent of Moscow.
The proposal will now be submitted for Putin's approval. He is unlikely to accept it, as such a move would effectively void the Minsk peace agreements signed with Ukraine in 2014 and 2015.
Russia has repeatedly demanded that the Donbas peace process be conducted through the Minsk accords. Ukraine and Russia have accused each other of stalling the peace process, largely due to the unclear wording of certain points in the Minsk documents.
Russia has previously demanded a "special status" for the regions it had occupied, while Ukraine had been previously clear that it won't provide additional powers to a region that isn't currently controlled by Kyiv.
On Feb. 14, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz focused on the Minsk Agreements, saying that President Volodymyr Zelensky agreed to present a plan to introduce “special status” for occupied Donbas.
The talks came after Zelensky's meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron on Feb. 7 in which the French president said he was seeking “a path to de-escalation,” and said he scheduled the meeting so “everyone’s intentions can be clarified.”
Altogether, the leaders of the Normandy Format countries – Ukraine, France, Germany, and Russia – have not met since 2019. The Normandy Format and the so-called Trilateral Contact Group are the two set of talks launched in 2014 to find a peaceful solution to Russia’s ongoing war against Ukraine.
Both seek to implement the Minsk Agreements signed after a Russian military offensive in February 2015. Russia’s ongoing eight-year-long war has killed over 13,000 people.