Putin orders Russian Federation to recognise documents issued in rebel-held east Ukraine

President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian authorities on Saturday to temporarily recognise civil registration documents issued in separatist-held areas of eastern Ukraine, indirectly recognising the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Luhansk.

The cease-fire was announced on February 18 by Russian Federation and was brokered along with foreign ministers of Ukraine, Germany, and France after talks at the Munich Security Conference.

"There has been artillery fire all day", said Eduard Basurin, a senior official in the self-declared Donetsk People's Republic.

"On Feb. 20 the ceasefire regime will start and withdrawal of heavy military hardware will also start", Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said after talks with his Ukrainian, German and French counterparts in Munich. "They have no alternatives", he said.

But the warring sides had already agreed on Wednesday that they would withdraw heavy weapons from the frontline by next Monday in line with a tattered peace plan, and Lavrov warned that there had been no "major progress" in Munich. "We need a lot of patience, because we can see a lack of will on either side".

Fighting has recently escalated between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed separatists in the region, refocusing global attention on a simmering conflict that has strained relations between Russia and the West.

The most recent violence earlier this month saw some 30 soldiers and civilians killed in the flashpoint town of Avdiivka.

"Ukrainian citizens and stateless persons who live there" will now be able "to enter Russian Federation and exit Russian Federation without a visa", the decree said.

Putin's decree is a "violation of worldwide law", Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko was quoted by RIA Novosti news agency as saying.

And the former acting President, Oleksandr Turchynov, now the head of Ukraine's national security and defence council, echoed this, saying the Kremlin had "completely ruled out" a return to the ceasefire agreement.

"By signing this decree, Putin has legally recognised the quasi-state terrorist groups which cover Russia's occupation of part of Donbas".

Mike Pence said the Trump administration would demand that Russian Federation honours a 2015 peace deal agreed in Minsk in efforts to end fighting in eastern Ukraine, which has been repeatedly violated by both sides.

  • Leroy Wright