If Russia recognizes Ukraine's breakaway republics it would be a "serious escalation" by the Kremlin, "creates an excuse" for war and sanctions should be imposed "immediately", Estonian officials said on Monday.
After a meeting with Russia's Security Council President Vladimir Putin said a decision would be made later today on whether or not to recognize the self-declared Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics, where separatist forces have been fighting the Ukrainian army since 2014.
Responding to the news on Monday evening, Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) called for the European Union to introduce "strong sanctions" and said she would raise the issue with EU leaders.
"Strong sanctions by the European Union must follow the recognition of the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk republics by the Russian Federation," she said in a statement on Monday evening.
Kalls: Recognition a serious escalation
Writing on social media earlier in the evening, the prime minister called Putin's plans a "serious escalation".
"It would be a clear and grave violation of international law and the territorial integrity of Ukraine. Donetsk and Luhansk are and will be part of Ukraine," she wrote on social media.
"This decision would also end the Minsk agreements. By saying "no" to a political solution based on the Minsk agreements, the Kremlin shuts the door on diplomacy and creates an excuse for war."
Decision to recognise Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts of #Ukraine as independent would be a serious escalation by Kremlin. It would be a clear and grave violation of international law and the territorial integrity of Ukraine. Donetsk and Luhansk are and will be part of Ukraine. 1/2— Kaja Kallas (@kajakallas) February 21, 2022
The Minister of Foreign Affairs called for sanctions to be imposed "immediately" by the European Union.
The ministry wrote recognition would be "a grave violation" of international law and of Ukraine's "sovereignty & territorial integrity".
If the decision will be made by Russia to recognise so called "Donetsk & Luhansk People's Republics", it would constitute a grave violation of int´l law & of `s sovereignty & territorial integrity. must impose strict sanctions immediately. Call on Russia to de-escalate!— Estonian MFA (@MFAestonia) February 21, 2022
Minister of Foreign Affairs Eva-Maria Liimets (Center) made similar comments last Tuesday.
The Donetsk and Luhansk regions have been contested by Ukraine and Russia-backed rebels for years, with regular violence despite a ceasefire agreement, the BBC wrote on Monday.
Leaders of both regions asked Russia to recognize their independence on Monday. Western powers fear such a move could be used as a pretext for Russia to invade its neighbor.
Estonian MEP Riho Terras (Isamaa) said if Putin does recognize the republics: "He will likely use this to move in with regular #Russia troops to Eastern-Ukraine."
As we heard today #Putin is about to recognise the self-proclaimed separatist republics. He will likely use this to move in with regular #Russia troops to Eastern-#Ukraine. @EPPGroup @MFA_Ukraine @MoD_Estonia @EP_ForeignAff @MFAestonia @postimees @general_ben @edwardlucas https://t.co/xl96GWSwA1— Riho Terras (@RihoTerras) February 21, 2022
Later this week, the foreign ministers of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania will visit Ukraine to show solidarity.
Editor's note: This article was updated to add additional comments from Kaja Kallas.
Editor: Helen Wright