Author`s name Lyuba Lulko

Is Russia ready to recognise Donbass republics?

If chief propagandists of the nation get involved in something, one should pay closer attention to that. It goes about the Russian Donbass forum that takes place in Donetsk.

The participants of the forum promulgated the doctrine of the People's Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk. The doctrine stated the statehood of the republics should be strengthened as Russian nation-states, plus the two unrecognised republics should be returned to the sphere of the Russian historical space.

The chairman of the Union of Journalists of Russia, Vladimir Solovyov, who is known to be Russia's chief patriot, sent a welcoming message to the participants of the forum. RT editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan took part in the forum and made an emotional speech.

"The people of the Donbass want to be able to be Russian, to speak Russian, so that no one can ever take away this right from them. We must let it happen, we must give them that opportunity. The people of the Donbass want to live at home and be a part of our great, generous Russia. Mother Russia, take the Donbass home," exclaimed Margarita Simonyan.

It is worthy of note that Mrs. Simonyan is not only the editor-in-chief of RT - she is the head of the large media machine, the mouthpiece of Russian state media and Russian official propaganda, which works targeting foreign audiences.

Press Secretary of the Russian President Dmitry Peskov, commenting on Simonyan's remarks, noted that the issue of the Donbass becoming part of Russia was not on the agenda "either directly or indirectly." Spokespeople for the Foreign Ministry of Russia said that Simonyan expressed her personal views on the subject.

She did, but it is doubtful that she could say such things without the permission from the relevant bodies.

The forum was held against the backdrop of fruitless negotiations within the Contract Group for the Peaceful Settlement of the crisis in the Donbass and the Norman Format talks. Boris Gryzlov, the head of the Russian delegation to the Contract Group, described Kiev's actions as "absolutely irresponsible and aggressive." In his opinion, the Ukrainian authorities not only fail to comply with the Minsk agreements, but continue to nurture the idea of ​​the military suppression of the Donbass crisis and "set themselves up for its certain implementation."

The head of the Ukrainian delegation, Leonid Kravchuk, seemingly denied those suspicions, having said that the return of the lost territories by military means was out of the question. However, he immediately made a very significant clarification: "in the near future."

The forum came as a message to US President Joe Biden, who, according to his press attaché Jane Psaki, "did not hold back" in his recent telephone conversation with Vladimir Putin. Dmitry Peskov, Putin's official spokesman, said that Russia and the United States shared completely different views regarding the Donbass crisis.

All this means that the state of affairs can change at any moment. Will Russia eventually recognise  the two unrecognised republics?

Russia de facto unifies with Donetsk and Luhansk

Russia may unite with the People's Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk in a different format. According to the Migration Service of the Russian Federation, as many as 409,000 Ukrainians received Russian citizenship in 2020, of whom approximately 320-330 thousand people were residents of the Donbass republics. This is still 10-12 percent of the population of the Donbass, but the trend will preserve. Russia also conducts economic integration, budget funding, vaccination against COVID-19 in the Donbass.

In addition, the Kremlin is aware of the reputation risks among Putin's electorate ahead of the complicated elections to the State Duma and presidential election in 2024. Can the Russians return under the sword of Damocles of Ukrainization? Can the conflict stretch for another ten years? The people of the Donbass are tired, they want certainty, they need a national idea as a response to the offensive of the West in the person of Navalny. In the long run, did Putin hold back during the phone conversation with Biden?

De jure solution matures

In a commentary for Pravda.Ru, a participant of the forum, first deputy chairman of the State Duma Committee for CIS Affairs, Eurasian Integration and Relations with Compatriots, Kazbek Taisayev noted that since 2014, after the referendum, the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, which he is a member of, supported the recognition of the People's Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk.

In his opinion, the forum is of great importance not only for the Donbass, but for the entire Russian world, as it voiced a powerful call to recognise independence of the People's Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk. 

"I am convinced that all the issues that were discussed here at the forum will make this decision happen. And there is every reason for this to happen," Kazbek Taisayev said.

What about the sanctions?

Some analysts point out that the Kremlin will not dare to recognise the republics because of the fear of draconian sanctions, such as disconnecting from SWIFT, sanctions on the national debt, and an embargo on energy trade. However, this is not likely to happen, because Russia can take stringent measures targeting USA's and EU's property in Russia, which can lead to a hot war. To crown it all, Russia is not Iran, but the only country in the world that can destroy the United States with a nuclear strike.