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RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – February 21, 2022

Today in Russia/CIS: Russia to recognize Donetsk and Lugansk?; A scary Security Council meeting; Markets don’t like recognition ‘Nightmare’ conditions for Russian troops at the border; New cryptocurrency rules proposed by finance ministry

Recognition. What next? Russian President Vladimir Putin indicated that he would be signing a declaration to recognise Donetsk and Lugansk as independent states. He informed French President Macron and German Chancellor Scholz about his decision (and the “decision” of the Security Council, see below) to recognize the breakaway territories. The EU called on Russia not to do so.

A Kremlin statement read, according to KommersantPutin informed about the results of the expanded meeting of the Security Council of the Russian Federation, which considered the current situation around Donbass in the context of the State Duma’s decision on the recognition of the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics. Today, appeals were received from the leadership of the DPR and LPR to recognize their sovereignty in connection with the military aggression of the Ukrainian authorities, massive shelling of the territory of Donbass, as a result of which the civilian population suffers…In view of all this, the President of Russia said that he intended to sign a corresponding decree in the near future.”

Putin made his decision shortly after accusing Ukrainian “saboteurs” of attempting to enter Russian territory in armed vehicles, and claimed that it killed five Ukrainian soldiers. Kyiv declared this to be “fake news.”

It remains to be seen how Russia will handle the discrepancy between Donetsk and Lugansk’s declared territory and the territory these breakaway regimes actually control. Could this be the pretext for invasion of Ukraine that the world has been holding its breath over?

Security Council meeting. Russia’s Security Council held a meeting to discuss the recognition of Donetsk and Lugansk, where there was universal support by the participants for the idea. The Guardian’s correspondent in Moscow, Shaun Walker, took his Twitter followers through the remarks made by the participants, and wrote, “Putin is running this Security Council meeting like a Netflix drama. Starts by saying basically we’re all going to decide the fate of Ukraine today, then lots of plot filling from the others before we get the answer…Extraordinary way to find out the future fate of Europe.”

Nosedive, again. Russian stock indices as well as the ruble took a tumble as the specter of recognition of Ukrainian breakaway territories appeared ever more likely. Kommersant wrote, “The Russian stock market today, February 21, completed the main trades with a fall of 10.5%. The Moscow Exchange index fell to 3036.88 points (-10.50%), the RTS index – to 1207.35 points (-13.21%). The corporate bond index closed down to 445.36 points, down 0.81%. The index of government bonds for the day fell to 547.08 points, by 1.98%. The decrease in the value of shares occurred against the backdrop of an appeal by the heads of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics to Russian President Vladimir Putin with a request to recognize their independence.”

A nightmare mission. Russian troops that are massed at the Ukrainian border are apparently living in “nightmare conditions,” forced to sleep on “cramped floors and going without military food rations for days.”

Crypto regulations announced. Russia’s finance ministry announced new cryptocurrency regulations today. “The draft upholds the current ban on crypto payments for goods and services, sets a cap on the amount of rubles that people can invest in cryptocurrencies, and defines what it means to mine cryptocurrencies.” Russia is one of the world’s largest miners of cryptocurrencies, but the government sees it as a societal and financial risk and has pledged restrictions and new regulations.

PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin at a Security Council meeting today which led to the announcement that Russia would be recognizing Donetsk and Lugansk as independent republics (Alexei Nikolsky / TASS)