Estonia will never accept Russia's decision to recognize the independence of Ukraine's breakaway regions, President Alar Karis said on Monday evening. He said Moscow wants to "deepen the conflict, not to solve it" and called for sanctions.
On Monday evening, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Moscow will recognize the independence of the self-declared Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics in eastern Ukraine, where separatist forces have been fighting the Ukrainian army since 2014.
In a statement after the announcement, Karis said: "Russia tore the Minsk agreements into pieces. This shows that Moscow's aim is to deepen the conflict, not to solve it.
"President Putin's decision to recognize the separatist Donetsk and Luhansk regions as states is gross and unjustifiable trampling on international law and Ukraine's territorial integrity. Estonia will never recognize this.
"The security crisis of the recent months has once again clearly shown who the aggressor is and who the victim is. The European Union's response must be swift, effective and unified. This means sanctions."
Estonia will never accept the illegal decision by Russia to recognize Donetsk and Luhansk regions. They are an internationally recognized part of Ukraine, like Crimea. Clearly, Moscow is not serious about diplomacy but is looking for casus belli. #StandWithUkraine— Alar Karis (@AlarKaris) February 21, 2022
The Minsk agreements - signed in 2014 and 2015 - were an attempt to secure a ceasefire between the Ukrainian government and Russia-backed separatists in the east of Ukraine.
Putin has asked the Russian parliament to ratify the decision as soon as possible.
Earlier on Monday evening, Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) called for new EU sanctions to be applied if Putin recognized the regions.
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.
Russia has massed more than 100,000 troops on the borders of eastern and northern Ukraine in recent months. Western intelligence and experts believe a further invasion of Ukraine is likely.
Baltic presidents support Ukraine
President of Latvia Eglis Levits also wrote that the regions "belong to Ukraine" and called for sanctions.
Luhansk un Donetsk belong to Ukraine The announcement by the President of Russia to recognize their independence is a gross violation of norms of international law and requires strong action from the EU, including immediate sanctions.— Egils Levits (@valstsgriba) February 21, 2022
As did President of Lithuania Gitanas Nauseda who called Russia's recognition an "intolerable violation of international law".
He said Lithuania's support for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity is "ironclad".
Recognition of Donetsk & Luhansk separatist 'republics' by Russia is intolerable violation of international law. It also means unilateral withdrawal from Minsk agreements. support to sovereignty and territorial integrity is ironclad.— Gitanas Nausėda (@GitanasNauseda) February 21, 2022
The speaker of Lithuania's parliament Viktorija Cmilyte-Nielsen said she will initiate a resolution to never recognize a change of status for the Donbas region of Ukraine.
"Such unlawful act must be met with [the] strongest possible response," she wrote.
In view of Russia's illegal decision, just announced by #Putin, I will initiate a resolution in @LRSeimas stating that any change to the status of Donbass region as integral part of #Ukraine will NEVER be recognised. Such unlawful act must be met with strongest possible response.— Viktorija Cmilyte-Nielsen (@VCmilyte) February 21, 2022
Riigikogu speaker: Clear signal Russia does not want to ease tensions
Riigikogu speaker and Center Party leader Jüri Ratas also called Putin's announcement a dangerous escalation and severe violation of international law and international relations.
Ratas said: "Both Russia's decision to recognize the so-called people's republics of Luhansk and Donetsk and the president's speech, unfortunately, gave out a clear signal that Russia does not want to ease tensions, but instead seeks to dismantle Europe's security architecture. This is a significant threat to European stability and peace."
Ratas also tweeted that: "Putin's statement today is a gross violation of the international law and interstate relations. The democracies must vigorously oppose this attempt to destabilize the European security and fully support Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity."
Putin's today's statement is a gross violation of the international law and interstate relations. The democracies must vigorously oppose this attempt to destabilize the European security and fully support Ukraine's sovereignity and territorial integrity.— Jüri Ratas (@ratasjuri) February 21, 2022
Editor's note: This article was updated to include Riigikogu speaker Jüri Ratas' comments.
Editor: Helen Wright, Andrew Whyte