Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the rightful borders of the illegitimate Russia-backed "states" in eastern Ukraine extend to the whole region of the Donbas, which is considerably bigger than the currently occupied areas.
The announcement further escalates the tension that spiked after Russia officially recognized the two proxies late on Feb. 21.
The Russian-controlled militants control a portion of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts, separated from the Ukrainian forces that hold the rest by a 420-kilometer contact line.
As Russia vowed to help the "independent states" militarily, this raises the strong possibility of military confrontation with Ukrainian forces that will defend their territory.
Putin said that the borders of the two pseudo-states are right in their constitutions, which declare that each controls the entire Ukrainian region. Putin said that all disputes would be settled during their talks with Kyiv.
Kyiv has refused to talk to the militants occupying eastern Ukraine, insisting that they are not a separate entity but are controlled by Russia.
Leaders of both Kremlin-backed groups have insisted that they have a claim to the entire region in which they are located.
Earlier, Russia was vague on where the borders would be drawn. Russian TV channel Rossiya 24 quoted international committee chair Andrei Klimov as saying that the new “states” would encompass “territories… within the borders that are established today.”
However, Leonid Kalashnikov, head of the committee on Commonwealth of Independent States affairs said that the borders would be defined by the illegitimate referendums that were staged in the occupied areas in 2014. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov did not clarify further.
Colonel (retired) Viktor Kevlyuk from the Center for Defense Strategies says that Putin’s cooperation decrees with the militant “republics” do not contain anything about the size of the territories recognized independent by him, which leaves room for maneuver.